According to a recent report published by UK FIRES, a research program sponsored by the UK Government, reaching absolute zero is possible through our current technologies and incremental lifestyle changes.
We need to reduce our GHG emissions by 2050, but scientists say that we are not on track to meet this goal.
For decades we have relied on breakthrough technologies that will reduce our emissions to continue lifestyles. Although these innovations are promising, it will take 30 years to operate at a scale or deliver absolute zero emissions.
But we can’t wait for these breakthrough technologies to deliver zero emissions by 2050. Instead, we can start responding now through using today’s technologies coupled with an incremental lifestyle change, the report says.
Making these changes happen will require three things:
- each one of us needs to be part of the process, making lifestyle changes that could make zero-emissions a reality,
- the government needs to treat it as a challenge and get it done,
- business that must close must not delay any further.
What does “absolute zero” mean?
According to the report, the UK’s Climate Change Act would contain terms like net emissions, which means that emissions can continue at a reduced rate through carbon-reducing activities or use of technology that emit less or zero emissions and offsetting the remaining emissions through planting trees or buying carbon credits to carbon offset companies to reach a net emission.
However, absolute zero means zero-emission with no negative emissions options or meaningful “carbon offsets”. Absolute zero emissions also apply to emissions caused by purchasing, including imported goods and international flights and shipping.
The report details what we can do as individuals and in the key sectors: road vehicles, rail, flying, shipping, heating, food, mining, construction, manufacturing, electricity, and fossil fuels, to reduce emissions from today to beyond 2050.
It provides four timelines: 2020 to 2029, 2030 to 2049, 2050, and beyond 2050 and shows what incremental lifestyle changes are required and what emissions reductions it will achieve, reaching up to absolute zero by 2050.
Beyond 2050, new technologies that produce zero emissions will become more widely available and can operate at a scale.
As individuals, these big actions include travel less distance, stop flying but travel more by train or in electric cars, use heating less, electrify boilers, lobby for construction with half the material for twice as long, and reduce eating beef and lamb. Each action that we take to reduce emissions creates a ripple effect.
Reaching our absolute zero also requires us to use significantly less energy, even up to 60%, and the report shows several opportunities to achieve this.
Restraint is vital to achieving the absolute zero target, but it does not necessarily mean despair. Later on, as innovation expands service delivery without emissions – the deployment of electric planes, nuclear-powered ships, application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) on mining, steel, and cement production, total electrification of food production and processing etc., the need for restraint will be relieved and the activities and that we enjoy and value can continue and expand.
To read the entire report, click the link below:
Allwood, J.M., Dunant, C.F., Lupton, R.C., Cleaver, C.J., Serrenho, A.C.H., Azevedo, J.M.C., Horton, P.M., Clare, C., Low, H., Horrocks, I., Murray, J., Lin, J., Cullen, J.M., Ward, M., Salamati, M., Felin, T., Ibell, T., Zho, W., Hawkins, W. (2019, November). Absolute Zero. UK FIRES. Retrieved from https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1810/299414/REP_Absolute_Zero_V3_20200505.pdf