You may be hearing and reading a lot around the terms net zero and carbon neutrality, carbon emissions, decarbonisation, combined with Climate Emergency and Climate Change and all are used interchangeably in different articles and organisations.

But what is this all relating to in simple terms and is your business ready to take this challenge?

To put in simple terms zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are produced in the making of a product or by the provision of a service. i.e. all the energy used is sourced from renewable sources.

Carbon neutral means that, whilst there are emissions associated with the product or service, the emissions are off-set in some way to result in net zero emissions. Net zero and carbon neutral are, therefore, the same.

Net zero is what Durham County Council is aiming to achieve by 2050. It involves huge changes to lifestyles and industries to cut all man-made emissions.

Negative emissions is another terminology that is frequently used. This involves the removal of more CO2 and other emissions than are being produced. For example, carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon off-setting (tree-planting or peatland restoration).

Even with the attempt to clarify the terminology, above, the actual definitions are not straightforward.

Sometimes all greenhouse gases are included, sometimes only CO2, sometimes off-setting is or isn’t included.

How can net-zero be achieved?

  1. A better awareness of the value and benefits of energy efficiency by individuals and businesses would be the first step in the drive towards net carbon-zero. If less energy is used, less emissions result.
  2. For businesses this key first step would be an energy audit to analyse and measure the carbon footprint. This could then lead to changes of behaviours that reduce energy usage and the installation of efficient equipment and working procedures. Once the business is as energy efficient as practicable, off-setting the residual carbon may enable it to become net zero carbon.
  3. Phase out fossil fuel transport. Emissions from transport, and particularly aviation, are significant contributors to climate change. A transition to electric/low carbon vehicles will result in huge reductions in emissions. If the electricity used is sourced from renewable energy this will be more beneficial. If people and organisations travel on foot, by bike or public transport for shorter journeys it would be good for health and the environment. This would also be the case if people flew less or avoid flying altogether. There’s no way around the fact that flights are bad news for the environment. It’s not just that planes are worse than most other forms of transport in terms of the impact of greenhouse gases per passenger mile, it’s also the simple fact that flying allows us to travel a great amount of miles that otherwise.
  4. Generate more renewable electricity. Energy that originates from sun- or wind-power is natural and emission-free.
  5. Stop using natural gas for heating. Gas is a fossil fuel with a carbon footprint that stretched beyond emissions from burning. UK is a major importer of the fuel which must be transported across the world (security is another issue). There are renewable heat options. One of these, heat pumps, may play a major role in decarbonising heat. The UK government announced that  gas boilers will be banned in all domestic new builds as of 2025 and there is view of bringing this date forward.
  6. Plant more trees/off-setting. Trees, peat, soil, seaweed all store carbon to a greater or lesser extent. The science behind this natural sequestration is becoming better understood. Businesses or individuals can off-set their carbon footprint by investing in the development of additional plantations at a scale big enough to store enough carbon to cancel out their residual carbon usage.
  7. Reduce food waste. A massive amount of food is wasted. If people and organisations bought only what they needed there would be a significant decrease in the amount of energy used to process and deliver food. The level of emissions generated by food going to landfill would also be reduced. Eating less red meat and dairy products would also impact overall emissions.

BEEP can help your business work towards net zero by providing you with a tailored energy audit, helping you adopt best practices, and reduce your ongoing energy spend.