What’s the Plan for Net Zero in 2050?

The UK’s Climate Change Committee has issued advice on the changes needed to meet the government’s 2050 target of reducing net carbon emissions to zero – but what does that mean for individuals and organisations?

Changes for the Citizen

In it’s Sixth Carbon Budget Report “The UK’s Path to Net Zero” the Climate Change Committee (CCC) identified some significant changes that all of us are likely to have to make if we want to live in a carbon neutral country. The committee identified that more than 50% of the planned emissions savings involve people and the choices they make.

Travel will become low-carbon by phasing out the internal combustion engine, at least in new cars and vans by the early 2030s. The amount we will fly remains contentious, particularly as there are no expectations in the report of reaching zero emissions for aviation by 2050.

Home Energy will be partly tackled by increasingly efficient devices, but we will need to shift away from natural gas to electricity and heat pumps for heating, a move that will require a massive investment (around £10k per older household) in much needed improvements in home insulation.

Diet and Food were always going to be controversial areas. The CCC has suggested a 20% cut in the consumption of red meat and dairy produce by 2030, increasing to 35% by 2050. It has also suggested a cut of 50% in food waste could be achieved.

Whether it’s flying less (if at all), changing our vehicles (new registrations this year are expected to be 10% electric including hybrid), wasting less or changing our diets, our personal journeys towards 2050 and Net-Zero have already started and are going to accelerate.

Changes for Organisations

Surface travel, buildings and energy supply have a significant share of of UK emissions (22%, 17% and 10% respectively). All private, public and third sector organisations will need to consider how emissions in these areas can be measured and reduced.

For most organisations reporting on energy consumption and progress on emissions reduction is now mandatory across Scope 1 (Direct emissions on site such as gas boilers and fleet vehicles), Scope 2 (Indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used) and Scope 3 (Indirect emissions from activities such as business travel and supply chain).

There are positive signs. We’ve seen from recent news how the impacts of Covid-19 have led to dramatic falls in emissions worldwide, but most significantly in the UK and France, where annual emissions are down 13% and 15% respectively. While some of this can be attributed to shut-down of industry, reductions in travel and work-based travel in particular would seem to be a major cause of the UK reduction.

Continuing the trend towards more flexible working arrangements is critical to meeting our 2050 targets as carefully consider how to balance the new world of work between pre and post Covid-19 worlds. This clearly has implications for the size and configuration of offices, as the use of these shifts from “every day” to “as required”. It’s likely that we will see greater emphasis on shared spaces, hot-desking and collaboration spaces and the technology to support this flexibility both in and away from the office becomes essential.

Despite the increasing use of sustainable energy we still need to consider the energy used by our works devices and datacentres. While we transition from our current mix to one largely free of fossil fuels (the CCC plan assumes fossil fuel supply emissions to be reduced by 75% by 2035 from 2018 levels) we will still be generating energy from fossil fuel for the foreseeable future.

That means we need to take steps to reduce power consumption wherever possible – with the added benefit of cost savings.

It’s these areas where Px3 focusses assessments – to measure the carbon footprint of ways of working, devices and datacentres and provide guidance on what can be changed, and what the benefits would be.

Conclusion

The CCC considered three likely scenarios: Headwinds (limited societal/behavioural change and innovation), Widespread Engagement (People and businesses are willing to make more changes to their behaviour, reducing the demand for the most high-carbon activities) and Widespread Innovation (Greater success in
reducing costs of low-carbon technologies, allowing more widespread electrification and a more resource and energy-efficient economy).

For those of us who can’t directly drive the innovation agenda, we need to focus on shifting from Headwinds to Widespread Engagement and making best use of resources. With the right data we can drive informed choices and all play our part in meeting these important and ambitious targets.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip), CIO @ Px3

Ewen is CIO of Px3, a company on a mission to help organisations balance people, planet and productivity by promoting sustainable IT strategies.  Px3 has set itself the goal of removing the CO2 emissions equivalent of 100,000 cars from our atmosphere by 2050. With a background in psychology, management services, consultancy and enterprise IT, Ewen is a passionate believer that the right technology used in the right way can significantly reduce environmental impacts, engage users and improve productivity.

Ewen (LinkedIn Profile) can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk

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