Decoding UK’s Net Zero Commitment: A Roadmap to Environmental Sustainability
Climate change is a topic that, rightfully, one cannot avoid encountering in the UK. In the aftermath of a disappointing COP28 summit, outlooks for our future under the climate crisis are dimmer than ever – and pressures mounting higher than ever on governments and industries to address their part in the lackluster response to ecological and humanitarian crisis.
The UK government’s own commitments to tackling climate change have been reflected in a flagship strategy, called the Net Zero Strategy. Within it are numerous regulations and legislatorial commitments designed to act towards a single target and milestone. What is the UK’s Net Zero strategy, what regulations are contained within it and how has it fared against a growing global threat?
The Net Zero Target
The UK government’s Net Zero Strategy sets out a general aim – to reach zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. The original target, set out via the Climate Change Act 2008, resolved to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% relative to the levels as they stood in 1990. However, this percentage was revised in 2019 to 100%, on account of advice from the Committee on Climate Change; the switch to zero carbon would be more in line with the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement in 2016.
How, then, does the UK government expect to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050? The good news is that, relative to 1990 levels, the UK already emits just 57% the greenhouse gases it used to. The difficult news is that the remaining emissions are tied to a number of industries and fields, some of which are reticent to see change.
One of the more infamous pieces of government legislation announced under Net Zero is the ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles – a move designed to loosen the chokehold of fossil-fuelled cars on the automotive industry and on the nation’s drivers.
Meanwhile, investments in alternative energy sources have been ramping up, as the government puts funding behind offshore wind, new nuclear plants, electric vehicles, and research into hydrogen fuel cell technologies.
Of course, the well goes much deeper than legislation relating to fuel and energy. There are innumerable building regulations and health and safety laws designed to reduce waste and pollution, and to engage private enterprise on the issue of sustainability. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) frameworks often allow businesses to meet various legal obligations and exceed them, guaranteeing ESG compliance for the long haul.
No Time To Waste
Unfortunately, the government’s Net Zero Strategy has been beset with difficulty – particularly in recent months, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeks to neuter certain pieces of legislation in order to appease a minority flank of his government. As promises are rolled back, it is made all the clearer that the last thing we have to waste is time.