What is Net-Zero?

The term net-zero is widely used, but what does it actually mean?

Simply put, net-zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and removed from the atmosphere.

But wait a minute, what are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon, methane & nitrous oxide, are naturally occurring gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat.

Due to excess consumption and production, we are adding more GHGs (including additional manmade GHGs such as fluorinated gases) which is causing global temperatures to rise. These GHGs are the driving force behind the climate change impacts we are experiencing today.

Only when the amount of greenhouse gases produced is no more than the amount that is taken away, has net-zero been reached. This concept can be looked at on a personal, business or national scale.

In October 2021, the UK Government published its net-zero strategy, which details how the country will achieve net-zero emissions by 2021.

This strategy encompases at all three “scopes” of GHGs:

  • Scope 1 is emissions related to direct use of emissions sources – such as burning gas or other heating fuels, and vehicle use, as well as leakages from refrigerants.
  • Scope 2 indicates indirect use – principally electricity, which is generated off-site but used on-site.
  • Scope 3 includes anything up or downstream of your operations – this includes business travel, purchased goods and services, water and waste.

To reach net zero, emissions from homes, transport, agriculture, and industry will need to be reviewed across all these areas and drastically cut. In order to do this, radical changes in the technology used and our behaviours will need to be adopted.

Why do we want to achieve net-zero?

Net-zero is a target we must reach, globally, in order to combat the effects of climate change and reduce global warming. In order for net-zero to be effective however, it must be permanent, and to achieve it, we have to reduce the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere.

By encouraging sectors, industries, organisations, and individuals to work together in cutting carbon emissions, the hope is that, over the coming decades, the UK can achieve its net zero ambitions and, as a consequence, help reduce global warming and the effects of climate change.

In addition, acting on climate change will help businesses to grow, seize new opportunities, create new jobs, encourage investment and adapt against the challenges of a changing planet.

The first step on the net-zero journey

Reaching net zero requires businesses to think innovatively and to prioritise the planet as equally as profits.

Most net-zero strategies seek to decrease energy consumption and explore carbon negative energy options instead. Seeking out greener suppliers, for example those that measure and reduce their own carbon footprint, is an essential part of the procurement process.

In order to play their part in the net-zero movement, businesses must understand their current carbon emissions. You can learn more about our carbon management services here.

If you’re struggling on how to get started, our environmental consultants can help you understand your current carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce it.