With global climate activists Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough bringing attention to the terrifying effects of climate change, there is no denying that something needs to be done before it’s too late.
It has been scientifically proven that greenhouse gases are directly linked to global warming and that human activities emit large amounts of carbon dioxide.
We are warned by The Climate Reality Project that we should put all our efforts into meeting the 1.5 ºC Paris Agreement goal, otherwise ‘we’ll likely see many natural systems begin to cross dangerous points of no return, triggering lasting changes and transforming life as we know it’. For the UK, a new target has been set, pledging to reach net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050 (up from the existing emissions reductions target of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050).
This means, in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, CO2 emissions need to be drastically reduced, ideally to zero.
‘Net-zero’ carbon emissions means creating a balance between the amount of carbon produced and emissions being taken out of the atmosphere.
The process, known as carbon removal, requires a deliberate implementation of natural and technological solutions to counteract human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It will require a collaboration between the government, companies and consumers to make the relevant adjustments, reductions and even innovation to fulfil the goal of net-zero carbon emissions.
Before renewable energy sources were introduced, most of our electricity was generated from fossil fuels. However, recent emissions from electricity generation have fallen by 50% since 2013. The decrease in numbers reflects the decrease in coal use for electricity generation. The UK has also seen energy supply from renewables increase rapidly, initiatives like the RHI grant scheme has encouraged homeowners to use renewable energy sources. Many companies have also made a conscious effort to make their products more energy efficient and require less electricity.
Another human-induced activity that results in high carbon emissions is landfill waste. Landfill waste accounts for just under 4% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the rubbish that gets dumped in these areas decomposes and releases greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide. With the implementation of the UK’s landfill tax, much of the emissions produced by waste have fallen by 69% since 1990. While this shows good progress, more action needs to be done in order to reduce the amount of waste and capture the greenhouse gases produced.
One of the more natural yet effective methods of carbon removal is the restoration of forests. Recent deforestation of forests has reduced the number of trees that help capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide by photosynthesis. While recent deforestation has been conducted in order for cropland and urban areas to develop, areas that already have forests can house more trees. The UK has only around 13% of land surface covered by trees, which is around one-third of the average of European countries. We could clearly do more in the area of planting new trees and we are short of our annual planting targets. Some even suggest that ‘a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions from human activities that remain in the atmosphere today’. As trees can take up to 20-30 years to grow, it is crucial for us to act as soon as possible.
2050 may seem like a long time away but if we continue to act as we do, our climate will continue to heat up causing detrimental damages to our habitat and lifestyles. Let us know what your thoughts are on the net-zero carbon emissions and whether you think the UK will be able to meet these requirements before the agreed deadline by tagging us on Facebook or on Twitter @ViessmannUK.