Following Boris Johnson’s resignation earlier this month, conversations regarding the Conservative Party’s commitment to the UK’s Net Zero Strategy have been prevalent. The chair of the Conservative Net Zero Support Group, Chris Skidmore, warns that the Conservatives have “two weeks to save Net Zero” (Independent, 2022.) Subsequently, millions of people have taken to Google to search “What does Net Zero mean?” according to Google Trends.
So, What is Net Zero?
Simply put, “Net Zero” is about equilibrium. To be Net Zero means the amount of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons) we add to the atmosphere does not exceed the amount we take out (Greenpeace, 2019.) In other words, Net Zero refers to a state of balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere (Energy Saving Trust, 2021.)
It is important to understand the ‘net’ in Net Zero. Because it will be extremely difficult to cut all emissions in the short amount of time we have, Net Zero requires two critical elements. The two critical steps which must be taken are:
- Direct and indirect (Scope 1, 2, and 3) emissions must be deeply cut;
- The residual emissions must be removed through carbon removal technologies and/ or nature- based removal methods.
Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, and Climate Neutral are all different terms which point to the ways in which carbon reduction is approached. However, Net Zero is the internationally agreed upon strategy mitigating the climate crisis.
Why Does Net Zero Matter?
The IPCC (2018), Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), warns that we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In order to do so, we must reach net-zero CO2 emissions globally by 2050. The IPCC (2021), Sixth Assessment Report, finds that climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, as evidenced by extreme weather, worsened droughts, and increased risk of forest fires.
In response, progressive companies are increasingly implementing Net Zero strategies. With the adoption of such strategies, it is critical that the definition of Net Zero is consistent and adheres to agreed upon principles. These can be broadly defined as:
- Calculate all relevant value chain emissions of all greenhouse gases, following the GHG Protocol Corporate standard;.
- Set reduction targets to reduce emissions in line with the ambition criteria of the Science Based Targets initiative;
- Take action to achieve the targets;
- Allocate capital to projects that remove or avoid an amount of carbon equivalent to residual emissions.
The challenge, particularly for SMEs, is understanding how these principles apply in practice to their business. Net Zero Now is focused on providing Sector based industry endorsed protocols that provide the guidance businesses need and a standard against which they can be certified.
UK Net Zero Context
In October 2021, the UK formally committed to Net Zero and presented their strategy for achieving it. This commitment to Net Zero laid out the UK’s Net Zero strategy and called on every sector to do their part.
The UK’s current plan for reaching Net Zero, includes increasing energy efficiency, increasing the amount of renewable energy in our energy mix, and utilising hydrogen to replace fossil fuels. Furthermore, the Strategy set out the UK’s plan for securing 440,000 well-paid jobs and unlocking £90 billion in investment by 2030. All this in pursuit of ending the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.
All of this is reportedly at risk as the Conservative candidates vie for party leadership. Tory MP Chris Skidmore urgently asks his fellow party members to commit to meeting the targets laid out in the Net Zero Strategy. In a speech to parliament, Skidmore stated:
“We have yet to hear from any candidate in this leadership race their clear position not only on supporting net zero but also how they intend to prioritise climate, nature and the environment. At a time of a cost-of-gas crisis and global food insecurity, and a time when the UK is about to face record heatwaves, it’s absolutely vital that every candidate in this leadership race sets out their stall on how they would protect net zero…As far as I’m concerned, the future progress on climate change hangs in the balance. We have two weeks to save net zero.”
… And we could not agree more.
Regardless of the Conservative Party’s stance on Net Zero, the movement has gained momentum for commercial and ethical reasons. Not only is it the right thing to do, Net Zero makes business sense. Discover here the Net Zero Now Certification Programme.