Net zero: can the UK reach its 2050 target?

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.

What is driving corporate sustainability?

Rising interest in climate change means businesses are facing increased scrutiny over the environmental and social impacts of their practices. Mandatory carbon reporting already makes corporate sustainability obligatory for many big energy users. And securing funding in the future may entirely rely on a company’s ESG strategy thanks to financial guidelines like the TCFD.

Fortunately, there are many benefits to embracing corporate sustainability beyond ticking boxes. An organisation’s green credentials will only rise in value as the UK races towards its net zero target. Not to mention, at the heart of decarbonisation and sustainability is energy efficiency, which can uncover considerable cost savings.

There are various forces driving corporate sustainability, including a shift in consumer behaviour, policy changes and more ambitious government targets. These forecast a more permanent transformation in the business and finance sectors.

The race to net zero

The real fuel behind the environmental movement at the moment is the global race to net zero. Over the past year, the UK government has introduced new policies and plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This includes new energy efficiency standards, increased renewable generation, hydrogen development, and a ban on petrol vehicles from 2030.

What is clear is that the green wave is coming.  To stay competitive, businesses will have to create sustainable strategies that prepare them for a net zero economy.

EIC can be your partner in this journey, from the first energy audit through to accreditation. Along the way, we help manage all your energy admin and take the stress out of complex carbon legislation. The path to net zero can be difficult to navigate, but our experienced in-house team of energy specialists provide end-to-end simplification. Giving you peace of mind, and your organisation a green, resilient future.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)

In November 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to make alignment with the TCFD guidelines mandatory in the UK. This will apply to most sectors of the economy by 2025 including listed companies, banks, and large private businesses.

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures was established in 2015 by the international Financial Stability Board. It is based on the growing consensus that climate change has immediate effects on economic decisions.

This new step towards mandatory transparency will require a more holistic view of a company’s environmental footprint. It also confirms that investors are growing more aware of climate-related risks and are putting more faith in organisations that plan ahead. For this reason, it can be beneficial for organisations to follow TCFD guidelines, whether they are obligated to do so or not.

Impact investing and the rise of ESG

Environmental, Social and Governance strategies are not new to the corporate sector, but they have become more important in recent years. Now with a heightened focus on climate change and social justice, ESG is becoming essential for securing future investments.

This goes hand-in-hand with the rise in impact investing, which goes beyond mitigating risks and asks – how is your organisation positively impacting the planet? This trend has seen a rise in companies with social or environmental missions.

Why choose true sustainability?

The rise in climate action has led to some companies ‘greenwashing’. This is essentially when a company markets themselves as being ‘green’ without taking real action to reduce their environmental footprint.

There are many benefits to genuine environmental sustainability. The most important being an organisation’s longevity in a changing market.

If the recent shift in policy and finance has taught us anything it is that total transparency will be essential in the future. While ‘greenwashing’ may have some rewards now, it is poor preparation for a net zero economy. And though it may be cheaper in the short term, organisations that are ignoring their energy efficiency are missing out on significant long term savings.

Why choose EIC on your journey to net zero?

At EIC we know that building an environmentally and ethically sound business is not only the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do. Our in-house team can guide you through energy monitoring, carbon footprinting, green procurement and compliance legislation. Our aim is to provide you with holistic energy management and sustainable solutions that boost your green reputation and financial savings.

Contact us at EIC for a bespoke net zero roadmap for your organisation.

4 Types of Carbon Offset Projects

Resource efficiency and sustainability are already integral to a business’s resiliency. All evidence points to carbon offsets becoming the next piece of the puzzle.

Climate-related policy change and litigation are on the rise across the world. It is clear that the involvement of the business sector in reducing global emissions will soon be unavoidable. This means that companies will have to take responsibility for their carbon footprint. Becoming eco-conscious will give a reputational advantage, as well as future security.

There are concerns around carbon offsets being used as a tool for “greenwashing”. This is a term used for a company masking its unethical behaviour with a green veil of traded carbon credits or PPAs. This is a valid concern, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But as we move further and faster towards a net zero economy, genuine “greenness” will carry more weight.

While there are shades of green when it comes to the carbon market, carbon offsetting projects can facilitate valuable environmental and social projects. The benefits of which can extend above and beyond the initial reduction in carbon.

How do carbon offset projects and credits work?

Every tonne of emissions reduced by an environmental project creates one carbon offset or carbon credit. Companies can invest in these projects directly or buy the carbon credits in order to reduce their own carbon footprints.

Carbon credits are tradeable on the market and can be controversial in how easy they are to attain. However, the concept is the same: a company is more or less investing in a green project in order to balance their own emissions.

 

Four main types of carbon offset projects

Forestry and Conservation

Reforestation and conservation have become very popular offsetting schemes. Credits are created based on either the carbon captured by new trees or the carbon not released through protecting old trees. These projects are based all across the world, from growing forests right here in the UK to replanting mangroves in Madagascar, to “re-wilding” the rainforests of Brazil.

Forestry projects are not the cheapest offset option, but they are often chosen for their many benefits outside of the carbon credits they offer. Protecting eco-systems, wildlife, and social heritage is significant for companies offsetting their carbon emissions for the corporate social responsibility (CSR) element.

There is some grey area in forestry offsetting. In the past, it has been difficult to distinguish just how much carbon is being reduced through forestry projects. Fortunately, thanks to emerging new technologies, methods of sustainable reforestation and calculating the benefits have greatly improved.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy offsets help to build or maintain chiefly solar, wind or hydro sites across the world. By investing in these projects, a company is boosting the amount of renewable energy on the grid, creating jobs, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, and bolstering the sector’s global growth.

Take, for example, The Bokhol Plant in Senegal. This project is one of the largest of its kind in West Africa, providing 160,000 people with access to renewable energy. It also saves the government $5 million a year and creates jobs in the region. Plus, the profits from selling carbon credits are often fed back into local community projects.

Community projects

Community projects often help to introduce energy-efficient methods or technology to undeveloped communities around the world. There are many potential benefits to these projects that far surpass carbon credits. Projects like this do not only help to make entire regions more sustainable, they can provide empowerment and independence that can lift communities out of poverty. This means that projects that were, at one time, purely philanthropic can now provide organisations with direct benefits like carbon credits.

For example, the female-led Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in Ethiopia provides clean water to communities by fixing and funding long-term maintenance for boreholes. How does this reduce carbon emissions? Families will no longer have to burn firewood to boil water, which will protect local forests, prevent carbon emissions and reduce indoor smoke pollution. In addition to the health and environmental benefits, the project is managed by female-led committees that provide work to local women.

The Darfur Sudan Cookstove Project replaced traditional cooking methods like burning wood and charcoal often inside the home, with low smoke stoves in Darfur, Sudan. This works to reduce the damaging health effects and emissions of indoor smoke, as well as the impacts of deforestation. This project also employs women in the region and helps to empower women and girls who now spend less time collecting firewood and cooking.

Waste to energy

A waste to energy project often involves capturing methane and converting it into electricity. Sometimes this means capturing landfill gas, or in smaller villages, human or agricultural waste. In this way, waste to energy projects can impact communities in the same way efficient stoves or clean water can.

One such project in Vietnam is training locals to build and maintain biogas digesters which turn waste into affordable, clean and sustainable energy. This reduces the methane released into the atmosphere. And helps protect their local forests which would otherwise be depleted through sourcing firewood.

When and why are carbon offsets used?

Energy efficiency, clean energy usage, and sustainable business strategies can be very effective in reducing an organisation’s emissions. But there are various scopes to the greenhouse gas emissions that organisations must consider.

Scope 1: Direct emissions from company operations such as company vehicles or factories
Scope 2: Indirect emissions from company operations such as purchased electricity generated by fossil fuels
Scope 3: Indirect emissions from company supply chains such as shipping, business travel, and raw material extraction

Completely eliminating carbon emissions through mitigation methods is not always possible. That’s where carbon offsetting comes in.

How can EIC help reduce your carbon footprint?

It is important to take steps to reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible before considering carbon offsets. Carbon credits should certainly not be used to buy an organisation a clean conscience or create a mirage of sustainability for consumers and/or clients. Carbon offsetting is a valuable tool, and when used to supplement a company’s mitigation efforts, creates a genuinely sustainable and resilient foundation.

At EIC, we offer comprehensive energy and carbon services to help reduce our clients’ carbon footprint in a sustainable way. Our team of experts can help advise on energy efficiency, clean energy solutions, monitoring carbon emissions, and carbon credits.

To learn more about our services contact us at EIC.

LED lighting: Reducing costs and carbon at the same time

The past decade in carbon savings has been awash with success stories surrounding the installation of LED lighting systems. EIC has summarised a few public sector examples below and guidance on how your properties could benefit from a lighting upgrade.

Success in the NHS

A UK NHS trust recently made facility management news as it implemented a comprehensive upgrade to its lighting systems. Undertaking a site-wide LED installation means that the trust will now enjoy savings in excess of £180,000 annually. Provided these savings remain consistent, the project will have paid for itself within six years.

The gains of the forward-thinking trust are not only measured in pounds and pence; the switch to highly efficient LED lighting, whose lifespan is more than quadruple that of its fluorescent counterparts, also means reduced maintenance as well as a significantly diminished carbon footprint.

Capital gives green light for LEDs

Earlier this year, the city of London underwent a large-scale retrofit of over 8,000 traffic signals, regulatory box signs and push buttons. Upgrading these sites to LED lighting is expected to deliver energy and cost savings of 75% for Transport for London.

“It’s making our infrastructure greener, more sustainable and cheaper to run and not only that but as LEDs are more visible it is making our roads safer…”

– Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management

This conversion echoes another 2018 retrofit that saw 25,000 London signals at 900 sites upgraded with similar technology.

Hertfordshire County Council is taking this attitude a step further and has pledged to replace all the street lighting in its seat with LED illumination. The project reached its final stage earlier this year and the council expect it to reduce street lighting CO2 emissions by more than half. In material terms, this equates to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and £5m saved for the residents of Hertfordshire.

The Power of LED

The commercial picture

The benefits of LEDs are not just public sector, businesses can also make significant savings with this technology. Consider that a 20% reduction in energy costs can have the equivalent economic effect of a 5% increase in sales.

The difference with an LED installation is that it is permanent, and not subject to market conditions.

Traditional lighting actually wastes 95% of the energy it uses on the heat it produces. Since it operates at low temperatures, LED lighting reduces this waste by 90%. This also makes LED a much safer option if the lighting is located near human activity.

By effectively removing this heat source, temperature control systems like air conditioning will operate with greater efficiency. As EIC’s TM44 blog demonstrates, this too can equate to significant savings.

Light the halls

While the office Christmas party may be cancelled this year, it’s worth mentioning the seasonal savings potential of LEDs.

Granted, decorative lighting is not a year-round expense, but incandescent bulbs can run up quite a bill, especially for smaller retail businesses.

Fortunately holiday lights are now also available as LEDs, with several benefits included. Aside from the aforementioned savings, LED lighting is much more durable as well. Epoxy is used in place of glass to create their lenses, so they are highly resistant to breakage.

Bulbs last dozens of holiday seasons before needing replacement and low voltage requirements means many can share a single outlet.

EIC’s Lighting Solutions, including complimentary lighting control systems, has helped dozens of organisations. These controls include movement sensors, time clocks and light sensors which can all support an LED upgrade in reducing costs and CO2 footprint.

The EIC service includes initial surveys to establish the unique needs of a site, later formulating a bespoke proposal. Once installation is complete, EIC will also provide supplementary training to teams within an enterprise to ensure the new equipment is used as effectively as possible.

A full breakdown of this service is available by contacting the EIC team here.

 

COP26’s race to zero begins

EIC highlights the key points made in COP26 President Alok Sharma’s speech, which symbolised the beginning of the organisations ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, and how business leaders can take a poll position despite the starting gun having already been fired.

Mapping the future

News that the UK will postpone its hosting of the UN climate change conference (COP26) was not unexpected, given the necessity for social distancing that COVID-19 has imposed, however it did raise concerns over the UK’s determination to enact a green recovery post-lockdown.

While the UK track record may, in part, justify some of these concerns, individual safety is not the only benefit of such a delay to talks, for one the nations taking part will need a clear idea of the state of their respective economies once lockdown ends before committing to new policy. 

And from a psychological perspective it might be argued that due to the all-consuming nature of the pandemic when it comes to public and government attention, the conference would not receive the attention necessary if it went ahead this year.

How far we’ve come

Despite the conference now being slated for Q4 2021 (-12 November), Alok Sharma gave a speech last Friday that reasserted the UK’s ambitions and responsibilities with regards to the 2050 net zero target and how the race to zero was already hastening its completion.

The UK, in collaboration with Chile and the U.N., are already leaders of the Climate Ambition Alliance – representing over half of global GDP – however Sharma insisted in his speech that “…we must go further”.

Sharma outlined some of the UK’s major achievements in reducing carbon emissions in the last thirty years:

  • Since 1990 the UK economy has grown by 75% while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions by 43%
  • In the same time, the UK has two offshore wind turbines able to power 2,000 homes, as of 2020 the UK is leading nation for offshore wind capacity
  • Globally, the cost of solar and wind power have dropped by 85% and 49% respectively
  • Over two thirds of the worlds nations can now generate renewable energy cheaper than coal

While details of the path forward remain scant – not surprising given the reasons for postponement – Sharma made it clear that liberating capital to fund green initiatives and widespread support for electric vehicles would be crucial to the UNFCCC’s success.

Approximately 1,000 business leaders, representing revenue totalling in excess £3.5tn have committed to the scheme including British motor giant Rolls Royce. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC, around 75% of these businesses have already developed strategies and targets aligned with the 2050 target.

Dr. Alison Doig, international lead at the ECIU (Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit) recently commented on the danger of complacency in the opening stages of such a race. 

“This is not, however, about pushing climate action to some date in the future; no entity can reach net-zero in 2050 without starting now… participants will have to present delivery plans, including setting interim targets for the next decade, by the time COP26 opens in Glasgow next year.”

Clean energy was the first element of the British economy that Sharma cited when referring to the need for green growth after lockdown, making it a pressing issue for business leaders looking to get a head start on net zero. EIC provides comprehensive  support and advice to businesses in the procurement, management and generation of alternative energy sources. Each service forms an element of the robust energy management service that EIC offers.