You might have heard the term Net Zero, but do you actually know what it means?
Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, here’s an overview of what the term means and how you can reduce your own impact.
What’s Net Zero?
Net Zero is about striking a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere and those taken out. You might hear it being referred to as carbon neutral too. That’s because, while carbon dioxide isn’t the only greenhouse gas, it’s the most significant, emitted when fossil fuels are burned to create energy.
Basically, the aim is not to add new emissions into the atmosphere, but where we have to, balancing this by absorbing the equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
There are a number of 'solutions' for this, some of which have existed for millions of years. These include forests, mangroves, soil and seaweed, which all absorb carbon. That’s why it’s so important to preserve and protect the forests we have left, grow new ones where we can, and to improve farming practices.
Carbon dioxide can also be extracted directly through carbon capture, usage and storage technologies.
Of course, in some areas, carbon emissions can be drastically reduced or cut altogether, negating the need for carbon offsetting — for example by leaving the car at home and walking to the local shops instead, swapping to an electric vehicle and switching to renewable energy (although the latter two will emit a small amount of carbon during production).
Why does Net Zero matter?
Because we’re facing a climate emergency. Think about the extreme weather we’ve seen over the last few years, the wild fires in Australia and the floods here in the UK — there is a high probability that their frequency and intensity is a direct consequence of climate change. Greenhouse gases are causing our climate to change, and we all need to work together to reach Net Zero — that means individuals, companies and countries working towards the same goal.
Many countries have joined the Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to keep global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels. Right now the earth is 1.1°C warmer than it was at the start of the industrial revolution and temperatures are expected to increase by 3 to 5°C by the end of the century.
The UK has gone one step further, becoming the first major economy to commit to Net Zero emissions by 2050.
How can I reach Net Zero?
If you’re a Pure Planet Member you’ve already made a great start by switching to 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon offset gas.
Here’s just a few of the other ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, and help us all reach Net Zero:
- Swap to an electric vehicle - transport accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and 90% of that is from road transport. Increased adoption of electric cars will drastically reduce emissions, and make our towns and cities much cleaner places to live (EVs emit zero tailpipe emissions)
- Consider how you’re getting from A to B - a generation ago 70% of children walked to school, but now less than half do. Where you can, leave the car at home and get on your bike, walk to the post box, or use public transport instead — a local bus emits a little over half the greenhouse gases of a single occupancy car, and reduces road congestion. Many of them are going electric too
- Change the way you shop - when it comes to clothes choose quality over quantity. Pay close attention to the energy ratings of the appliances you’re buying. And try to shop locally for food where you can - it’ll taste better too!
- Opt for eco-friendly brands - the Pure Planet team have shared their favourite sustainable swaps, from laundry detergent to toilet rolls, in this blog.
According to the Carbon Trust, small and medium sized businesses are more likely to be asked by their customers to reduce their environmental impact than they were three years ago. As consumers we can hold businesses, big and small, accountable, encouraging them to make sustainable changes to the way they do business, and swapping to more eco-friendly brands where they don’t.
Ultimately though, it’s the responsibility of businesses and industries to set Net Zero goals and stick to them — it’s not only the right and only thing to do for our planet, but a legal requirement too.
Many businesses have already made that commitment, including a third of the UK’s biggest companies. A list of the 30 FTSE100 companies who have joined the global UNFCCC Race to Zero campaign as of 23rd March 2021 can be found here.
What’s Pure Planet doing to support Net Zero?
We know that the energy industry plays a key role in reducing carbon emissions. That’s why all our electricity is 100% renewable, from the sun, wind and water, and all our gas is 100% carbon offset. So far, our Members have saved more than 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 thanks to being on supply with us.
Pure Planet is a UNFCCC Race to Zero signatory — that means we’re committed to halving our emissions by 2030 and becoming Net Zero by 2050.
We’ve also signed the United Nations Global Compact, making a commitment to support a ‘precautionary approach to environmental challenges’, ‘undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility’ and ‘encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies’.
Here’s some of the things we’re already doing:
- Our pensions are in an ethical fund, and we offer a green car scheme to team members looking to swap to an EV
- We carbon offset 100% of our teams’ commute
- We promote sustainability through our app, blogs, case studies and campaigns
- We’re introducing new ways to support our Members on their journey to Net Zero, and launched Pure Planet Futures in 2020 to develop smart technologies to help them get there faster.
And here’s some of the things that we’ll be introducing soon:
- A new and improved Pure Planet app to make it easier than ever to understand how you’re using energy at home and on the go
- An EV tariff that helps electric vehicle drivers save money, as well as the planet
- Near-real-time data on your energy usage to help you understand which appliances in your home are using the most.
Statistics like the ones we’ve shared here can feel overwhelming, outside of our control, but there are things that we can all do to make a difference. Yes, hitting Net Zero by 2050 is going to take a lot of work and collaboration, but it’s worth considering that we’ve already reduced emissions by 48.8% since 1990. Together, we have the power to change.
Thanks for being part of Pure Planet.