Net zero: can the UK reach its 2050 target?
Despite the growing momentum around net zero, the UK is set to breach its fifth carbon budget. What does this mean for achieving net zero emissions by 2050?
In June 2019, parliament passed legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. This would make the UK a ‘net zero’ emitter.
This was once seen as a fairly ambitious target. Especially considering the previous commitment to an 80% reduction within the same timeframe. However, it has now become clear that achieving net zero by 2050 is imperative to tackling the catastrophic effects of climate change.
How close is the UK to reaching net zero?
To reach ‘net zero’, the UK must significantly reduce its emissions while simultaneously offsetting those that can’t be avoided. In this effort, the pandemic served as a hidden blessing. Thanks to reduced traffic, travel, waste and energy consumption, there was a record-breaking 10.7% fall in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2020. This resulted in a 48.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, a milestone in the country’s net zero journey.
Yet despite this, the UK is set to breach its fifth carbon budget by at least 313Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) according to research done by Green Alliance. And as workplaces open and travel resumes again, emission levels could return to pre-Covid levels. This could make meeting the sixth carbon budget, which recommends a reduction of 68% by 2030, challenging.
Is this achievable?
A recent report by The National Grid Electricity Operator (ESO) outlines 4 potential scenarios for decarbonisation in the UK. These were designed in part to lay out steps to meet the sixth carbon budget, and 3 of the scenarios see us reaching net zero by 2050. But, while this sounds promising, the report also explains that drastic changes are required to achieve future emissions targets.
The National Grid ESO’s head of strategy and regulation Matthew Wright said, “Our latest Future Energy Scenarios insight reveals a glimpse of a Britain that is powered with net zero carbon emissions, but it also highlights the level of societal change and policy direction that will be needed to get there.
“If Britain is to meet its ambitious emissions reduction targets, consumers will need a greater understanding of how their power use and lifestyle choices impact how sustainable our energy system will be – from how we heat our homes, to when we charge our future cars – and government policy will be key to driving awareness and change.
“Britain is making significant progress towards achieving net zero. The fundamental changes outlined in our latest FES insight show just how important a coordinated approach will be between policymakers and industry if we’re to capitalise on that momentum.”
What does this mean for businesses?
The UK ramping up its decarbonisation efforts will impact businesses and communities of all sizes. If the recently published Transport Decarbonisation Plan is any indication of policies to come, the general public should prepare for drastic changes. The plan outlines the Government’s approach to decarbonising the highest-emitting sector. It includes bringing the ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans forward from 2035 to 2030. As well as a consultation on zero-emission bus fleets and lorries by 2040.
Other expected changes could include higher energy efficiency standards and extended mandatory carbon reporting. A recent example of this is the extension of mandatory display of annual energy certificates in all larger office buildings. This means that businesses will have to prioritise their energy management in the future. Fortunately, reducing waste and boosting your green credentials often results in both financial and reputational benefits.
How can EIC help?
At EIC we help businesses monitor and manage their energy and carbon with sustainability in mind. Our in-house team can guide you through energy monitoring, carbon footprinting, green procurement and compliance legislation. We are already partnering with leading UK private and public sector organisations – supporting them to transform their operations in line with ambitious targets.
Our aim is to provide you with holistic energy management and sustainable solutions. Helping to carry your business into a green future.
Contact us at EIC for a bespoke net zero roadmap for your organisation.
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