With the scale of extreme weather we’ve seen over the past few years – from Australian bush fires to flooding in the UK – few people now deny that we are facing a climate emergency. The scientific evidence is clear: emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting from human activity, are causing our climate to change.
Carbon dioxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned to meet our demand for energy. Although it isn’t the only greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is the most significant. As such, the term ‘carbon emissions’ is often used to talk about all greenhouse gas emissions.
To address the problem, in June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass legislation that commits the country to net zero emissions by 2050. In other words, the target is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 100%, relative to 1990 levels, by the middle of this century.
What does net zero actually mean?
The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed.
To reach net zero, emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be cut. In other words, these sectors will have to reduce the amount of carbon they put into the atmosphere. But in some areas, like aviation, it will be too complex or expensive to cut emissions altogether.
These ‘residual’ emissions will need to be removed from the atmosphere: either by changing how we use our land so it can absorb more carbon dioxide, or by being extracted directly through technologies known as carbon capture, usage and storage
What’s clear is that not aiming for net zero is not an option. The costs of disastrous effects of climate change if left unchecked will be much higher than the costs of achieving net zero: many trillions of pounds, according to some estimates.
Ultimately you can’t put a price of the benefits of achieving net zero. And it’s not just about cutting emissions. It’s also about bringing about a better way of life: cleaner air and water, warmer and healthier homes, cleaner transport, greener spaces and better habitats for our wildlife.
We have advice on how you can help the UK reach its net zero target by making sustainable changes at home and on the move.
Make your home more energy efficient, reduce your carbon emissions and lower your energy bills.
Home – it’s somewhere we want to feel safe and warm. That involves using energy to heat or cool your property, generate hot water and power all your appliances and devices.
Around 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from our homes, as a result.
We want to help you save money on your bills at the same time as reducing your carbon footprint. So, whether that involves being more energy efficient, generating your own renewable energy, switching to a green tariff or insulating your home to keep the heat in – we’ve got advice and information to help.
See these links from the Energy Saving Trust