It has been revealed that the UK is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the time 2050 arrives. If the target is reached, it would see the nation become the cleanest country across the globe.
One issue though is that the UK has been found to be responsible for emitting close to 500 million tonnes of CO2 on an annual basis as of October 2018. Guidance from the Committee on Climate Change has been formally sought by the government about how and when the UK could bring this number down to zero though, with the move prompted from the release of a UN report which warned that CO2 emissions must be entirely stopped if dangerous climate disruption is to be avoided.
In a statement made to BBC, the UK’s climate minister Claire Perry pointed out: “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?”
To fully understand the challenge that the UK has set itself, Volkswagen dealership Vindis highlight just three things that must be altered throughout the nation…
Increase the popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles
The UK government has revealed that it intends to ban the use of all new diesel and petrol cars across the nation in 2040. While we may be a couple of decades away from seeing this ban come into force, which aims to make the UK’s roads cleaner, it appears that an increasing number of British motorists are already exploring what’s available when it comes to alternative-fuel vehicles.
This has been highlighted by figures recorded by Next Green Car. According to their findings, there has been an increase of new registrations of plug-in cars — from 3,500 models in 2013 to over 195,000 units come the end of January 2019. Furthermore, figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders highlighted that electric car sales across the UK has shifted from only close to 500 being registered each month in the early part of 2014 to an average of 5,000 per month throughout 2018.
Due to both sustained government and private investment, improvements have also been made to the infrastructure of the UK which enables it to cope with more alternative-fuel vehicles being on the road. While the UK’s network of electric vehicle charging points was recorded in at just a few hundred units as of 2011, there had been more than 5,800 charging locations, 9,800 charging devices and 16,700 connectors installed by June 2018.
We’re not quite there when it comes to alternative-fuel vehicles dominating roads throughout the UK though. After all, the latest vehicle data from the SMMT has 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 at least appears that things are moving in the right direction.
Increase the use of low-carbon fuels
Another way to get closer to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero is for businesses and individuals throughout the UK to use more low-carbon fuels.
We’ve already seen a few positive moves being made regarding this topic. In figures compiled by Imperial College London and reported on by The Guardian, for instance, the capacity of renewable energy in the UK surpassed that of fossil fuels for the first time. With the amount of renewable capacity trebling in the same five-year period that fossil fuels decreased by one-third, the capacity of biomass, hydropower, solar and wind power hit 41.9 gigawatts and the capacity of gas, coal and oil-fired power plants recorded in at 41.2 gigawatts between July and September.
Dr Iain Staffell, who looked into the research for Imperial College London, remarked: “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.”
During 2018, it must also be mentioned that a record was set in the UK when the nation managed to be powered without coal for three days in a row. The official time stood at 76 hours. This was before a report from Imperial College London which was commissioned by Drax 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.
Improve the insulation of homes
Between a BBC News article being published in February 2017 and 2050, the piece stated that carbon emissions in the UK needs to be reduced by 80 per cent. What’s more, a third of those carbon emissions had been recorded from heating draughty buildings across the nation.
Take a look at the insulation standards being introduced across the UK in 2050, however, and one issue is that 25 million of the nation’s existing homes will not meet the targets being rolled out. This is according to a report that was sent to Parliament by experts from the Green Building Council — a group of leading construction firms — with the solution being that the affected properties will need to be refurbished to the highest standards. According to calculations, these findings mean that 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.
It’s not just the reduction of carbon emissions that will be recorded from carrying out this work mind. The Green Building Council’s head 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.”
The UK attempting to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions so that they hit the zero mark by 2050 certainly is a big challenge. Fortunately, some of the examples covered in this article does at least suggest that efforts are being made to ensure the nation reaches its goal.