On June 27th, 2019 the UK became the first major economy worldwide to announce their plans and pass a law that places an end date on contribution to global warming. The net zero by 2050 carbon emissions plan was drafted into place following an announcement by the United Nations that if CO2 levels were not to be halted then the climate would face potentially devastating consequences. Likewise, it was made apparent that the UK was emitting more than 500 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The government called upon the help of the Committee on Climate Change to draw up a plan on how they could effectively reduce carbon emission.
Claire Perry, speaking to BBC news, said: “”The report was a really stark and sober piece of work — a good piece of work. Now we know what the goal is, and we know what some of the levers are. But for me, the constant question is: what is the cost and who’s going to bear that, both in the UK and in the global economy. The question is: what does government need to do, where can the private sector come in, and what technologies will come through?”. Claire is the UK’s climate minister.
Here, with Volkswagen dealer, Vindis, we take a look at the number of ways the UK can effectively tackle its carbon emission contribution.
Improve Insulation and Reduce Carbon Emission
In an article produced by the BBC in 2017, it was suggested that a significant quantity of the UK’s carbon emissions had been recorded from heating draughty buildings across the nation.
A group of construction firms known as the Green Building Council sent a report to the UK parliament last year. It detailed that 25 million homes don’t meet the insulation standards being enforced in the mid-century. All 25 million will need renovating in order to meet the standards desired by the government. This is especially worrying as in government documents it states that at a similar time to the report being released, there were only slightly more than 27 million households in the UK. This means roughly 92% of houses at the time needed such insulation implemented. The rate of refurbishment stood at a rate of 1.4 homes needing to be worked on every minute as of the beginning of 2017.
A reduction in carbon emissions isn’t the only benefit of improving insulation. The head of Green Building Council, Julie Hirigoyen, explains: “People will have warmer homes and lower bills; they will live longer, happier lives; we will be able to address climate change and carbon emissions. We will also be creating many thousands of jobs and exporting our best skills in innovation.”
Start using low-carbon fuels more
If the nation is to be successful in achieving its net zero aims by 2050, a concerted effort from businesses and the general public, of moving from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives, is essential.
A report produced by the Guardian noted that the UK’s renewable energy capacity surpassed that of fossil fuels for the very first time last year. With the amount of renewable capacity trebling in the same five-year period that fossil fuels decreased by one-third, the capacity of biomass to produce biofuel, biogas etc, hydropower, solar and wind power hit 41.9 gigawatts. The capacity of gas, coal and oil-fired power plants recorded in at 41.2 gigawatts between July and September.
The doctor which conducted the research, Iain Staffell, noted: “Britain’s power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and [the quarter between July and September] saw a major milestone on the journey.”
For the first time in history, the UK, in 2018, was successfully powered for three days without coal. The official time stood at 76 consecutive hours. This was before a report from Imperial College London suggested that coal supplied only 1.3 per cent of Britain’s entire use of electricity during the second quarter of 2018. Furnaces based at coal-fired power stations throughout the country were completely unused for 12 days in June last year too.
Vehicles that are more fuel-efficient
Alongside announcing the net zero emissions plan, the UK government also introduced the prohibition of the sale of new diesel or petrol cars as of the year 2040. Despite being 20 years away, it has already an impact on motorists throughout the country, and their decision to buy new vehicles that are powered differently (e.g. LPG).
In 2013 there were 3,500 new plug in cars registered in the UK however, in 2019, there were 195,000, more than 60 times more, according to research conducted by Next Green Car. Figures by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that there has been an increase from only 500 electric vehicles being registered each month in the early part of 2014 to an average of 5,000 per month throughout 2018.
Improved infrastructure can reduce carbon emissions and infrastructure development has been enhanced by both government and private business sponsoring. It has allowed for more electric and hybrid vehicles to be on the roads. While the UK’s network of electric vehicle charging points was recorded in at just a few hundred units as of 2011, there were more than 5,800 charging locations, 9,800 charging devices, and 16,700 connectors installed by June 2018.
Perhaps we may be years away from a fully electric motoring world here in the UK — the latest vehicle data from the SMMT stated that the car registrations market share for January 2019 was 64.08 per cent petrol, 29.08 per cent diesel and 6.84 per cent alternative-fuel vehicles, for example —however, it appears that things are at least moving in the right direction to reduce carbon emission.
Although progress might not be as fast as we hoped, we are certainly on the right path to reducing the carbon emissions inline with net zero by 2050.