Alternative Energy

Is net zero emissions realistic?

24th October 2019
Alex Lynn

With the UK emitting in excess of 500 million tonnes of polluting emissions annually, the UK government’s response has been to set in motion an ambitious plan to completely remove carbon emissions from the environment by 2050. Here, UK car dealer, Vindis, examine the measures needed to help the country reach it’s 2050 net zero target.

Devised in collaboration with the Committee on Climate Change, these plans mean that the UK is the first major world economy to introduce a stark, time sensitive combat plan to global climate change.

Speaking to the BBC, the UK’s climate change minister, Claire Perry said: "The report was a really stark and sober piece of work, a good piece of work. Now we know what the goal is, and we know what some of the levers are. But for me, the constant question is: what is the cost and who's going to bear that, both in the UK and in the global economy. The question is: what does government need to do, where can the private sector come in, and what technologies will come through?"


In London, the Imperial College was able to report statistics regarding the capacity of renewable energy in the UK surpassed that of fossil fuels for the first time. With the amount of renewable capacity trebling in the same five-year period that fossil fuels decreased by one-third, the capacity of biomass, hydropower, solar and wind power hit 41.9 gigawatts and the capacity of gas, coal and oil-fired power plants recorded in at 41.2 gigawatts between July and September.

Dr Iain Staffell, responsible for conducting the research on behalf of the Imperial College London, pointed out: “Britain’s power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and [the quarter between July and September] saw a major milestone on the journey.”

As of 2018, the UK was able to lay claim to a history first, the nation managed to be powered without coal for three days in a row (the official time stood at 76 consecutive hours). This was before a report from Imperial College London which was commissioned by Drax suggested that coal supplied only 1.3% of Britain’s entire use of electricity during the second quarter of 2018, furnaces based at coal-fired power stations throughout the country were completely unused for 12 days in June last year too.


In coincidence with net zero, the UK government announced its plans to stop the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2050.

Although the introduction is more than two decades away, it appears that an increasing number of British motorists are already exploring what’s available when it comes to alternative-fuel vehicles, e.g. LPG power. This has been highlighted by Next Green Car reporting that the number of new registrations of plug-in cars jumped from just 3,500 in 2013 to over 195,000 as of the end of January 2019.

Furthermore, figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders highlighted that electric car sales across the UK has shifted from only close to 500 being registered each month in the early part of 2014 to an average of 5,000 per month throughout 2018.

A development in regard to infrastructure has also sped up, thanks to both sustained government and private investment. While the UK’s network of electric vehicle charging points was recorded in at just a few hundred units as of 2011, there had been more than 5,800 charging locations, 9,800 charging devices and 16,700 connectors installed by June 2018.

Yes, we may still be a while away from the entirety of the UK fleet being non diesel or petrol, however changes are coming in to place, the latest vehicle data from the SMMT stated that the car registrations market share for January 2019 was 64.08% petrol, 29.08% diesel and 6.84% alternative-fuel vehicles, for example, but it appears that things are at least moving in the right direction.


In February 2017, a BBC news article highlighted the fact the UK was needing to cut carbon emissions by 80% between the date that the piece was published and 2050. What’s more, a third of those carbon emissions had been recorded from heating draughty buildings across the nation.

A group of leading construction firms, the Green Building Council, stated in a report sent to Parliament that 25 million existing homes will not currently meet the insulation standards being enforced in the mid-century and will need to be refurbished to the highest standards.

According to calculations, these findings mean that the rate of refurbishment stood at a rate of 1.4 homes needing to be worked on every minute as of the beginning of 2017. Making such a change offers considerably more benefits that simply cutting emissions.

The Green Building Council’s head Julie Hirigoyen explained: "People will have warmer homes and lower bills; they will live longer, happier lives; we will be able to address climate change and carbon emissions. We will also be creating many thousands of jobs and exporting our best skills in innovation.”

It certainly won’t be easy for the nation to achieve the goals laid out however, they are certainly going in the right direction!

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