Possible solutions for the UK to bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero
In a bid to become the cleanest country worldwide, the UK was announced that it is looking to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
As of October 2018, however, the UK was responsible for emitting an estimated 500 million tonnes of CO2 each year. 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.
“The report was a really stark and sober piece of work — a good piece of work,” Claire Perry, the climate minister of the UK, pointed out to BBC News. “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?"
Just how challenging is the task that the UK has presented itself with? Vindis, providers of Audi servicing procedures, look at just three changes that must be made across the nation in order for the goal of zero to be realised…
How will the increased use of fuel-efficient vehicles help?
The use of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned across the UK in 2040, the government has announced. 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.
Take figures from Next Green Car for example. 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.
Improvements to the UK’s infrastructure so that it is able to cope with an increase in alternative-fuel vehicles being on the road have also been made as a result of sustained government and private investment. 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.
UK roads being filled with just alternative-fuel vehicles won’t be seen for quite a few years yet. 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.
How will the increased use of low-carbon fuels help?
Should people and businesses across the UK increase how much they use low-carbon fuels, the nation’s target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero will be quite a lot closer to being achieved.
There are some positives already being realised when it comes to this matter mind. 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.
The research for Imperial College London was conducted by Dr Iain Staffell, who said: “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.”
In another piece of good news regarding this topic, the UK set a record in 2018 when it was successfully powered without coal being used for three consecutive days. 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.
How will the better insulation of homes help?
In a BBC News article which was published in February 2017, it was acknowledged that carbon emissions would need to be cut across the UK by 80 per cent between the date that piece was released and 2050. What’s more, a third of those carbon emissions had been recorded from heating draughty buildings across the nation.
When measuring up to the insulation standards being enforced in the UK from 2050 though, an issue is that 25 million existing homes will fail to meet the targets which are being brought in. 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.
Doing this work will provide more benefits than only reducing carbon emissions 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.”
It’s quite the task that the UK has set itself in trying to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero come 2050. 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.
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