Net Zero

The debate

After the formal presentations, the speakers joined a panel to discuss points raised by the audience. Topics included: international standards; offsetting; global and unilateral actions; embedded emissions; energy security.

There are no international standards for net zero yet they will be essential. We are in urgent need of standards for green hydrogen that are consistent across different regions. There are many different products that people call sustainable aviation fuel and there needs to be much greater clarity on this. Britain has an interesting role here because we have a long history of standards development and implementation. There is an economic opportunity for us in this.

One contributor noted that if the UK had kept up with the code for sustainable homes there would already be more than a million homes at zero net carbon, where energy bills are measured in 10s of pounds. To achieve net zero by 2050, we will have to offset. At the London Olympics, money was invested in energy efficiency measures and local schools. The schools used the money to employ special needs teachers. So is there scope for creating an offsetting fund that delivers carbon savings and societal benefits alongside?

Climate change is a ‘global commons’ problem, not one that will be solved by unilateral actions of individual countries. Unless there is solidarity between countries, the problem will not be satisfactorily addressed. So the UK has to be part of the solution, even if its emissions are not among the largest in global terms. Other countries are also making considerable progress: the efforts that have been made in China, for example, are very, very considerable.

London Olympics 2012: Energy saving initiatives 

 While much of the focus is on territorial emissions, attention also has to be paid to carbon embodied in trade. This has been coming down, partly because of reduced levels of global trade, but also because China, for example, a big exporting country, has made substantial improvements in efficiency.

Climate change is wrapped up in international considerations, including geopolitical tensions. Energy security and net zero are different sides of the same coin. The current geopolitical instability has made people think about indigenous energy generation, and that can only be good for the decarbonisation agenda, because much of that leads down the pathway of renewables.