What is net zero?

We’re a week into COP26, the United Nations summit aimed at driving action on climate change and accelerate net zero action, but what is net zero?

COP26, in Glasgow, has four main goals:

 

  1. Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  3. Mobilise finance
  4. Work together to deliver

 

Naturalist and filmmaker, Sir David Attenborough gave a stunning and impassioned speech at the opening of COP26. He told world leaders that they are powerful enough to save the planet. That they should use the climate crisis to “rewrite our story” and be “motivated by hope rather than fear.”

Reaching net zero by the middle of the century is a bold target, as this will involve changing the worlds energy generation process, but we also need to change the way we use energy in our everyday lives.

 The UK government is calling on all businesses, to pledge to go One Step Greener and sign up to the globally recognised UN Race to Zero Climate Commitment. This helps organisations become more energy efficient, switch to electric vehicles and active travel, and become landfill free.

We’re already experiencing dangerous warming in the form of floods, record heatwaves and wildfires through a 1.1C global temperature rise.  The average global temperature is likely to rise by more than 1.5C within the next 20 years.

Quite a common misconception is that zero carbon and carbon neutral are the same thing:

 

Carbon neutral

Means not increasing carbon emissions, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation whilst achieving carbon reduction through offsets such as increasing building insulation and renewable energy sources (solar, wind or hydro)

The UN says one billion acres of forest, more than 2% of the worlds land, has been lost since 1990 due to deforestation.

 

Net Zero

In a nutshell, net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor) produced vs the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are released when we burn fossil fuels, causing global warming by trapping the sun's energy. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, almost 200 countries agreed a goal to limit global warming to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

There’s a long way to go and there is no cheap option. It will involve different industries working together to achieve a collective goal, but the cost will probably be many trillions of pounds.

 

What can we do to help to achieve net zero?

To help the UK achieve net zero, we need to do things differently and use less energy.

 

Insulation your home

Be more energy-efficient, waste less energy and lower your homes carbon emissions. £800m has been committed to The Social Housing Retrofit Accelerator (SHRA) to help social housing providers across England carry out energy efficiency upgrades in their residents’ homes. This is part of the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF).

 

Drive electric

The UK now has everything you need to go electric: electric car leasing, home charging points and zero-carbon electric vehicle tariffs.

 

Renewable energy tariffs

Green energy (wind, solar, hydro and geothermal) will help to displace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

 

Low carbon lifestyle

As well as buying locally produced, organic food, eat less meat as 14.5% of emissions comes from livestock.

 

Low carbon travel

Avoid short car journeys, cycle or walk instead. Take the train rather than fly and avoid long-haul flights.

 

Get children involved

Get them interested in and involved in helping the community reach net zero. EDF Energy have a net zero challenge pack that can be used in schools and in the home .

 

About Energy Angels

Wolverhampton-based Energy Angels make housing associations and social landlord’s substantial savings each year through reduced energy costs and time savings, as well as support them in their own carbon reduction goals

Any housing associations and social landlords serious about reducing their energy and administration costs should access our void energy management team.

Energy Angels work closely with our housing partners to ensure smart meters are installed in empty properties. If the whole nation got a smart meter, we could save the same amount of energy as it takes to power every household in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester for a year.

Help is available to manage residents' future energy usage and costs and for all void properties, Energy Angels provide a viable renewable energy tariff option in partnership with OVO Energy.

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