What is Net Zero: Beginners Guide

What is Net Zero: Beginners Guide

Climate change has been discussed and debated for many years, scientists now universally agree that we are facing a climate emergency and we need to drastically reduce our global emissions.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that drastic action is needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  There is no doubt we are already witnessing the devastating impacts of climate change with wildfires and severe flooding across the world.  The maximum 1.5 degrees increase set within the Paris Climate Agreement would mean that whilst we would continue to see an increase in these destructive events, any higher than 1.5 degree and these events are catastrophic, the IPCC predicts that an increase of 2 degrees would result in 1.7bn more people experiencing deadly heat waves at least once in every five years; a further 10cm rise in sea levels; almost complete destruction of the coral reefs that support our marine environment.

2019 was an important catalyst year in the fight against climate change.  Then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, updated the 2008 Climate Change Act committing the UK to achieving Net Zero by 2050.  Quite simply, Net Zero means we need to achieve a balance between the emissions produced and the emissions taken out of the atmosphere.

To put into context the scale of the challenge to reach net zero, in our baseline year of 1990, the UK’s annual emissions were approximately 800MtCO²e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent); for 2019 we had reduced this to 454.8MtCO²e.

Net Zero Time and Plan?

A Net Zero target recognises that not all emissions can be reduced to zero so we also need to compensate for those remaining, this is known as offsetting and includes activities such as planting more trees.  The UK government has committed £625m towards tree planting and peat restoration to support this.  Other technology is emerging, such as carbon capture and storage, though this is currently expensive and unproven.

The UK government has produced a “ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution” to achieve Net Zero; this plan includes aims for green energy, low-carbon transport, nature, and innovative technology.

The ten points included in the plan are:

  • Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
  • Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  • Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
  • Electric vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles.
  • Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.
  • Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
  • Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  • Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.
  • Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
  • Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global centre of green finance.


What Can I Do To Support Net Zero At Home?

What Can I Do To Support Net Zero At Home?

Climate change affects us all, we all have a part to play in reducing emissions in order to reach net zero.  Burning fossil fuels to produce electricity is the greatest source of CO2 emissions in the UK, so whilst it is vital that we move away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, we can all take simple steps to reduce emissions today such as:

  • Switching to energy-saving light bulbs and making sure lights are switched off when not needed – this can help you to save around £50 a year
  • Put a jumper on! Lowering your heating by just 1 degree can save you around £75 a year
  • Wash clothes at a lower temperature – switch to a 30 degrees wash and dry your clothes naturally instead of using the tumble dryer – this will save you around £35 a year
  • Turn your appliances off fully when not in use, don’t just leave them on standby – this will save you around £30 a year…just remember to leave the fridge and freezer on!
  • Reducing your time in the shower by just 2 minutes each time will help you to save around £15 a year
  • Don’t fill the kettle – boil only what you need and this will save you up to £6 a year
  • Walk more!  Save £’s and lbs by leaving the car at home for short trips – a two-mile round trip to the shops on foot will save you around £0.50 in petrol and burn approx 115 calories, doing that once a week each year will save you £26 and burn almost 6000 calories!

The above steps alone can add up to almost £250 a year in savings and will all help to reduce your emissions without making any significant changes to your lifestyle.

There are a number of further measures that you can consider at home which will involve some research and investment but will make a greater impact on your bills and emissions over time, these include:


From simple steps such as using draught excluders and insulating radiators and pipes through to roof and loft insulation and replacing old doors and windows with double or triple glazed alternatives, you can significantly reduce heat loss and lower your bills.


If it’s time to change your existing boiler, now might be the right time to switch to a low or zero-carbon emission heating system.  As part of the UK Government’s plan to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, fossil fuel heating systems will be phased out over time, starting with a ban on gas and oil boilers in new homes from 2025.  Switching to a low carbon alternative, such as a heat pump, will help you to cut emissions and save money, and government support may be available to help you cover the initial cost.

Energy Efficient Appliances

No-one likes it when the washing machine or the fridge packs in and needs to be replaced, however when buying a new one you can save yourself money in the long run and lower your emissions if you look out for the energy rating labels on appliances and choose the most efficient (rated ‘A’).

Generating Electricity

Electricity generated at home can be used to power electrical appliances, or even an electric vehicle, reducing the amount of electricity you import and pay for from energy providers.  This could help you save money on your electricity bills as well as reducing carbon emissions.  There are different types of technology available for this, each with its own considerations for you to weigh up but they include solar panels, wind turbines and micro combined heat & power.