Net Zero: A Beginner’s Guide

The UK was the first major economy to set a legally binding commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

Whilst this may seem like a long way off, we will need to see bold and tangible action across our businesses, homes and transport to meet this goal over the next ten years.

So, is it time for your business set a net zero carbon target and develop a net zero strategy? In this article we will explore the meaning of net zero, how the UK aims to meet net zero by 2050 and how your business can devise and implement its own decarbonisation strategy.

What is the UK doing to decarbonise and achieve net zero emissions?

The Government’s Net Zero Strategy sets out how the country will unlock £90 billion in investment to support businesses and consumers in the clean energy transition. This will include reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels and switching to low carbon travel options like electric vehicles.

There are different official carbon targets for different parts of the UK. Scotland has committed to net zero emissions by 2045, while Wales has aligned with the UK target of 2050 but with ambitions to get there sooner. Northern Ireland has also set a target to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner.

What does net zero mean, and is it possible?

Net zero is intended to help lessen the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, it aims to limit global warming to levels that are safer for the world’s population.

The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.

The Committee on Climate Change has set out a clear pathway of how the UK can achieve net zero by cutting emissions across homes, transport, agriculture and industry. This will require bold action, including a change in our lifestyles, over the next ten years.

Net zero vs carbon neutral

Net zero refers to the amount of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) – such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane or sulphur dioxide – that are removed from the atmosphere being equal to those emitted by human activity.

Carbon neutrality refers to the amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere being equal to the carbon emitted.

How do net zero targets differ from science-based targets?

The Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) champions setting emissions reduction targets in line with climate science. It also officially approves these targets. Thousands of businesses and financial institutions have signed up to science-based targets.

Science-based targets set the goal for emissions reductions a business needs to make to align with the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

On 28th October 2021, the SBTi released its Corporate Net-Zero Standard which provides more detail about strategies in setting net zero targets.

How will my business benefit from supporting net zero?

The Government won’t be able to achieve its decarbonisation ambitions without the support of the UK’s businesses. This means that many businesses will need to fundamentally change their operations, their business models and their relationships with investors and consumers.

In addition, regulation is evolving alongside investor and consumer pressure. That’s why forward thinking businesses have already set decarbonisation goals.  Moreover, more than 5,000 businesses around the world have joined the Race to Zero campaign and pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

For business and industry, there are several benefits of developing a net zero strategy, which include: 

  • enhanced credibility and reputation
  • competitive advantage by adopting innovative green technology
  • improved investor confidence
  • consumer support
  • readiness for future regulation

How does my business set a decarbonisation strategy?

The first step is to understand your carbon footprint and where your emissions are being created across your business. Then you will want to devise a decarbonisation plan which sits within your overarching sustainability strategy. Finally you will need to map out how you will achieve your goals.

  • Measure your Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, enabling. you to understand your carbon footprint.
  • Set a net zero target. Consider setting a science-based target. This will likely involve your CEO, CFO/Finance Director and your Energy/Environment Manager.
  • Map out how you can achieve your carbon targets, plotting in milestones along the way.
  • Explore the options of working with a business such as AMP who can help fund your plans, devise a bespoke solution and develop and run your energy facility.
  • Embed sustainability in your business model. Help your people, your suppliers and your customers to understand how they can support your decarbonisation goals.

How can AMP help you?

For many businesses reducing scope one and two emissions, predominantly from heat, is a key challenge. We specialise in helping businesses to find the best solution to meet that challenge effectively.

We understand that heat decarbonisation requires local, often onsite, bespoke solutions which are driven by the individual demands of a site. Whether you want to decarbonise the heat from your building or the impact of your manufacturing operations, we can support you.

We follow a three-step process to help you meet your net zero energy goals:

  • we assess and analyse your energy needs and usage
  • we recommend a bespoke solution tailored to your organisation and operations
  • we fund, develop, build and operate the low carbon facility

With 180 low carbon projects, we have been helping organisations to become more sustainable since 2009.

Find out more about how we can support your decarbonisation ambitions.

Find out more about the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy