Ed’s note: Net-Zero


Summer temperatures have soared to record highs around the world and June was, by all accounts, the hottest in 140 years.

Alarmingly, scientists say the hottest summers in Europe in the past 500 years have all come in the past 17 years.

Each summer, temperatures reach new highs and it is easy to shrug off what for some is a welcome change to the stereotypical ‘two days of summer a year’ that – it is often joked – the UK sees. But the higher temperatures came with significant consequences.

Catalonia had to deal with wildfires, Bahrain with temperatures in excess of 45°C and severe heat warnings were issued all around the US. The extent of Arctic ice is said to be 10.5% below average, while average land and sea temperatures are 0.95 degrees above the global average of 15.5°C.

UN director general António Guterres has written to heads of state around the world, asking for outlines of their plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Net Zero movement – which sees neither a surplus nor a deficit of carbon emissions when gains and losses are added together – has seen significant support in recent months, with the United Kingdom being the first G7 economy to put its net-zero pledge into law. 

Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – the destruction of the world’s coral reefs, food shortages, rising sea levels, drought, floods and “the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people” – urgent steps were needed.

Yesterday we reported that Enel has signed up to become net-zero by 2050, making the energy firm the only one in Italy to take up the UN net-zero emissions commitment.  Enel joins 28 countries, along with a variety of states, cities and companies who are all committing to net-zero. These include Washington DC, California, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden to name just a few. Cambridge University has today announced its own plans to go net-zero by 2038.

Earlier this year, the university’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) released a report which outlined multiple pathways for European energy-intensive industries to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, whilst remaining competitive at a global level. 

The report outlines possible pathways to reach a fully decarbonised energy-intensive industrial sector by 2050, including:  

  • A more circular economy, with better materials efficiency throughout value chains. 
  • Reusing materials that have already been produced can also achieve large emissions reductions. By 2050, 70% of steel and plastics could be produced using recycled feedstock.
  • Innovations in new clean production processes and significant increases in renewable energy production will help enable deeper reductions over time.
  • Carbon capture and storage/use.

Yet, net-zero requires more than commitments from government and companies to reduce emissions – it requires a commitment from society to reduce consumption and change energy usage habits.

This includes utilising energy efficient technologies in homes and office buildings, campaigning for bicycle-friendly environments or adopting greener transport alternatives. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to buy an electric vehicle – but in developing countries, in particular, significant effort needs to be made to improve public transport and do more to encourage ride-sharing. During a recent trip to the US, I loved the idea of the carpool lanes designated on the highways in California.

What are you doing to enable the move to net-zero? What is your company or utility doing to facilitate net-zero and how are you supporting those efforts? We’d love to hear from you.