It's evident that there is a wealth of government and NGO-led initiatives associated with driving towards a net carbon-neutral world.
However at a time where COVID19 is in front of us, there lies an immediate question, "Does net carbon neutral matter, whilst thousands of lives are being lost, and economies and nations are in tatters?"
Of course, the answer is a resounding "Yes". With up to 40-50% less traffic on our roads, with manufacturing and industrial activity on reduced performance, we are all seeing pictures on the internet of clearer skies, less pollution, lakes and canals and rivers becoming cleaner. All of this does, come at a huge cost to society and the welfare of millions of people.
Finding better, cleaner ways to produce our energy, to manufacture our goods, to deliver our food and groceries, to heat our homes or cool them when needed. Much of the low carbon initiatives deployed pre-COVID19 remain as valid; if not more valid. Cleaner air, lower carbon dioxide pollution, more efficient use of our natural resources and a move towards decarbonising our dependency of oil and gas, all seem to make more sense in a post COVID19 World.
The Government's white paper, "The Clean Growth Strategy: Leading the Way to a Low carbon Future" published in October 2017, is a good start. It outlines the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels) and then attempts to address how we make the target achievable. The government predicts that the UK low carbon economy could grow by an estimated 11% per year between 2015 and 2030, 4 times faster than the rest of the economy and could deliver between £60bn and £170bn of export sales of goods and services by 2030. There are two overarching objectives underpinning the paper: (1) to meet the domestic commitments at the lowest possible net cost to UK taxpayers, consumers, and businesses; and (2) to maximise the social and economic benefits for the UK from this transition. The paper outlines this is important to protect businesses and households from high energy costs; secure industrial and economic advantage from the global transition; and if we want other countries to adopt the same approach, the low carbon technologies need to be cheaper and to offer more value.
Another report worthy of review is 'Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming’ – Committee on Climate Change (May 2019). The report discusses the ways the UK is looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, as per the commitment from the Paris Agreement. The committee discusses the need to establish strong policies to really tackle the issue, whilst ensuring the plans are designed with businesses/workers, and consumers in mind.
Finally, 'Clean Air Strategy' – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (January 2019). It looks to outline ways the UK will tackle air pollution. The report again focuses on encouraging consumers to change their usage habits and look at harnessing the power of cleaner energy sources.
There is a wealth of studies, guidance, recommendations and plans all aimed at driving a net carbon-neutral future; and whilst all of our futures are a little more uncertain than before, we should seek to reflect upon what our futures should be like beyond COVID19. Those of us who are fortunate enough to see the other side of COVID19 have a collective responsibility to everyone who did not make it through this, to deliver a better, safer, cleaner world for us all and our future generations.
By Darren Walsh, Energy Partner at DWF