This new blog aims to bring you the latest news and essential developments around the topical term 'net zero' which is now frequently the focus of the media, including actions that are being taken to contribute towards achieving net zero emissions in the UK by 2050.
This blog is led by one of our experts in the sustainability team, Sam Todd, but multiple members of the Comply Direct team contribute to this blog which is shown below, including links to their staff profiles so you can read more about their roles in the business.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero emissions means reducing emissions as much as possible whilst acknowledging that where greenhouse gas emissions still occur, they must be offset entirely through carbon capture or storage. This is often through the planting and growth of trees for example.
Companies who have committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050
Posted: 7 April 2020
Author: Cherry Whittaker
Currently, we are aware of the following organisations who have made a commitment to bring their Greenhouse Gas emissions to net zero by 2050, or before. This may not be an exhaustive list but we will be updating it as and when we are aware of more commitments:
- Environment Agency Net Zero by 2030
- Sky Net Zero by 2030
- Sainsbury's Net Zero by 2040
- Nestle Net Zero by 2050
- Repsol Net Zero by 2050
- Qantas Net Zero by 2050
- ThyssenKrupp Net Zero by 2050
- HeidelbergCement Net Zero by 2050
- BP Net Zero by 2050
- Barclays Net Zero by 2050
- Exeter City Futures Net Zero by 2030
- Shell Net Zero by 2050
Delay in National Infrastructure Strategy to account for Net Zero Target
Posted: 10 March 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
The Government’s 30 year National Infrastructure Strategy, due to be published this week, has been further delayed, and it has been reported that this is in order to refocus the strategy on the UK’s net zero emissions target. The strategy will outline spending projections for transport and digital infrastructure, and the delay should allow changes so that funding is reflective of the 2050 emissions target.
This follows the recent court ruling of the proposed Heathrow expansion as unlawful on environmental grounds as it did not align with the Paris Agreement (click here to find out more). Numerous UK infrastructure projects may face court cases on climate grounds following this decision as a result of not taking emissions reduction commitments into account. An expansion scheme of Bristol airport has been rejected, a new roads programme is going to be challenged in court, and there are serious concerns as to whether the HS2 project can comply with the net-zero target. There is now significant emphasis on the government to ensure that climate impacts are central to all projects and future legislation, and this revamped National Infrastructure Strategy could lead the way in this approach.
To read the full story click here
Chief Executive of the Environment Agency gives speech on addressing climate change
Posted: 10 February 2020
Author: Liz Wood
On 4 February 2020, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency spoke of the organisation’s ambitions to be a Net Zero organisation by 2030 (20 years ahead of the UK government target). In an ambitious twist, the organisation are choosing to include supply chain emissions. The agency’s current footprint is 180,000 tonnes per year. Sir Bevan discussed the risks and opportunities associated with a low carbon future for businesses, and the cultural impact of setting an ambitious target, he openly admits, they weren’t exactly sure how to reach!
To read the full script, please click HERE
Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK: Committee on Climate Change Report
Posted: 28 January 2020
Author: Liz Wood
On 23 January 2020, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released their latest report. The document examines the impact of agriculture and land use on green house gas emissions. Land use can impact on emissions in various ways, for example, agricultural practices which involve the heavy application of fertiliser, or rearing of animals, contribute emissions, whereas the expansion of well managed forestry, through tree planting can remove carbon dioxide. In 2017, land-use and peatlands (type of wetland) accounted for 12% of all UK green house gas emissions.
As well as making an assessment of current land use practices, and the associated impact, the report suggests the changes that will be required in order for the UK to meet the government commitment to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The report sets out actions which, if adopted in full, could reduce land based emissions by 64% by 2050. These include:
- Increased tree planting – increasing forest cover in the UK from 13 to 17% by 2050
- Reducing consumption of carbon intensive foods such as red meat – the report suggests a 20% decrease in consumption of beef, lamb and dairy per person
- Reduce food waste by 20%
- Grow more crops for use in bioenergy
- Move toward low-carbon farming by ensuring better practises around fertiliser application, slurry acidification and livestock health
- Restore peatlands and prevent further drainage to prevent the release of methane
These actions represent a major shift in land use practice in the UK. In order to help the UK to make the transition, the report suggests a mixture of incentives and regulation change including:
- Low interest rate loans for energy crops
- Training in low carbon farming
- A ban on the rotational burning of peatlands and peat extraction
- Extended regulation around agricultural emissions
- Tax on high carbon industry e.g. aviation to fund tree planting
Who are the Committee on Climate Change?
They are an independent, statutory body with the purpose of advising the UK Government on matters concerning emissions targets. They also report to parliament on progress toward reducing emissions. The committee was established under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Where can I access the full report?
The consequences of alternatives to plastic packaging
Posted: 09 January 2020
Author: Susanna Jackson
Under the increasing plastic free trends and ever mounting pressure from consumers and the media to eliminate single use plastics, it is important to examine the ultimate consequences of what such a ban could entail, and consider the environmental impacts of any substitute materials.
In response to the scrutiny over plastic packaging, some producers have shifted their packaging materials away from plastic and towards alternatives such as glass and paper bags. However, glass is much heavier than plastic, and can cause more pollution via transport than plastic does, while paper can be more difficult to reuse and often have higher carbon emissions than plastic bags. One study found that when considering factors such as ozone depletion, human and ecosystem toxicity, and water and air pollution, a paper bag would need 43 reuses before it had a lower impact than an average plastic bag. Some supermarkets have also started selling more drinks in cardboard cartons coated with non-recyclable materials under the impression that they can be recycled , but only one third of coated containers in circulation could be recycled in the UK’s current facilities.
Another common alternative to arise has been packaging items labelled as biodegradable, oxodegradable, or compostable, which often require industrial processes and treatments in order to actually compost or degrade. However, if this is not made clear to the consumer, it could potentially cause more harm than good through the wrong assumption that it could just be littered and would biodegrade in the natural environment.
In many circumstances, plastic remains the most effective material at reducing food waste; a cucumber wrapped in plastic will last up to 14 days longer. Food waste has a much higher environmental impact in terms of its carbon footprint than packaging waste does. Significantly more resources go into creating food, so there is a necessity to protect the food for as long as possible. Having said this, not every product is optimally packaged, and there is a need to examine plastic items where they aren’t necessary, while ensuring that where they are necessary the packaging is as recyclable or reusable as possible. Packaging technology innovations are therefore a serious advantage in the current climate, as innovative new packaging types could help reduce the environmental impact of packaging.
HM Treasury's Net Zero Review
Posted: 4 November 2019
Author: Martin Hyde
On 2 November 2019, HM Treasury announced a review into the UK’s climate agenda with the aim of determining whether a situation of “Net Zero” emissions is a possibility for the UK by 2050
This follows on from the commitment made in late June 2019, which requires the UK to bring all Greenhouse Gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As the first major economy to make such a commitment, the UK will need to be sure of its road-map to 2050, both due to the impacts on UK householders and businesses, as well as the nations and economies looking to follow suit.
Councillor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, has referred to the upcoming review as the “vital next step” towards delivering a 2050 net zero emissions target.
The Treasury’s review will be key in developing future carbon infrastructure in the UK, as well as ensuring that we are able to make progress towards the 2050 target in a manner which does not prevent economic growth or place “unfair burdens on families or businesses”.
It is positive to see a commitment to look at minimising emissions in the UK “without seeing them exported elsewhere”.
The review will aim to meet the below 4 objectives:
- Analysing the range of choices for how households, businesses and the taxpayer could contribute towards different elements of the transition to net zero.
- Identifying mechanisms to create an equitable balance of contributions.
- Maximising opportunities for economic growth as we transition to a green economy.
- Evaluating the trade-offs between cost, competitiveness, effects on consumers and impacts on the taxpayer.
A final report will be published in Autumn 2020, communicating the progress and findings of the Treasury’s review. This report will also set out the decision-making principles to be used to guide the UK’s transition towards net zero emissions.
What is meant by net zero?
Net zero emissions mean that whilst greenhouse gas emissions can still occur, they must be offset entirely through carbon capture or storage. This is often through the planting and growth of trees.
A challenge for businesses and householders alike?
The net zero target is very ambitious, as it will likely have significant impacts on industrial growth, as well as consideration for planned residential expansions over this time period as our population and economy grows.
There is also a question to be raised about what evidence for “offsetting” emissions will be accepted, and this is why a Treasury review is of significant importance. Not all evidence of carbon offsetting is equal and this disparity in evidence quality (and availability) will likely prove relevant over the next 30 years.
How can I offset my emissions?
Comply Direct offer a range of carbon footprint / offsetting, calculation and management services which you can read more about HERE. Please do get in touch if you would like guidance around how you can work towards net zero emissions within your business – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01756 794 951
Whilst we appreciate there is no current “one size fits all” approach to carbon review and management, we operate our carbon services to the highest standards and utilise the ISO 14064-1 methodology.