To achieve net zero in the UK, for example, emissions would have to be reduced by 100% of the 1990 levels. This can be done in a variety of ways, including actions taken by individuals as well as industry. The target applies to all industry sectors from aerospace to power generation, and can be broadly be broken down into four main methods:
- Removal of carbon from the atmosphere
- Improving energy efficiency in buildings
- Electrification of transport
- Decarbonisation of power
The difference between these approaches is that the first aims to reduce the existing amount of greenhouse gas through methods such as air capture or reforestation, while the other three aim to reduce or offset the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced.
Net zero can only be achieved by removing carbon from the atmosphere as well as reducing the amount that is produced. Planting trees that absorb and store carbon is one easy method to achieve this, but other methods include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which takes carbon emissions from the air and stores them in the ground.
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings will also have a large impact on reaching net zero. In the UK, this primarily means removing carbon from heating, but other nations will investigate matters such as air conditioning, depending on climate. Alternative energy sources can help with these problems as can factors such as improved insulation and energy efficiency in buildings.
Transport is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and these continue to rise. Replacing conventional petrol and diesel vehicles with electric vehicles (EV) is a clear example of how transport can be made environmentally friendly. Emissions from transport can also be reduced through means such as light-weighting, which means the use of lighter components in order to reduce fuel consumption.
The decarbonisation of power requires the greater adoption of renewable and clean energy sources. For the UK, this primarily involves the use of wind power. Current figures show that the UK has 8GW of offshore wind capacity, but it is estimated that this will need to be increased by 5-10GW per year for the next 30 years to meet the targets by 2050.
As of June 2020, twenty countries and regions have adopted net zero targets. These include Austria, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, the European Union, Fiji, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
There are some notable absences from this list, including The United States, Australia, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. However, smaller economies in these nations have committed to the goal of net zero, such as California, New York, and Hawaii in the USA and New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland in Australia.
The nations committed to net zero equals 17% of global GDP and even this does not mean it will be achieved. However, it is hoped that more nations will be influenced to commit. They may be influenced by leadership, technology and innovation as well as through the application of pressure such as a Carbon Border Tax Adjustment, whereby taxes are levied on imports from countries with no carbon price.
TWI Industry Projects
TWI’s work with our Industrial Members frequently ties in with the push towards net zero as our experts are called upon to offer support across industry sectors.
We have been supporting the transport and construction industries in the move towards electrification as a greener alternative to combustion engines. This includes a great deal of work developing battery solutions for electric vehicles.
Our work in electrification is complemented by the research and development undertaken in the field of materials and lightweighting for vehicle manufacturers. Lighter vehicles require less energy to power, and our aluminium expertise has been widely exploited by industry. Lightweighting is also an integral benefit from our work with the Surflow Project, which allows for the replacement of wiring systems with a composite data highway for data transmission. Meanwhile, in the marine sector, the Fibreship Project saw TWI collaborate on the development of composites for shipbuilding.
The power sector is another area where TWI has been influential in promoting work that should offer environmental benefits. This work ranges from developing geothermal energy solutions to addressing the challenges of offshore wind and the promotion of clean and efficient nuclear energy through small modular reactors (SMR).
The UK government has highlighted a number of industrial priorities based upon a wider UK Industrial Strategy. These trending topics don’t just seek to advance UK industry in key areas, but also include initiatives that directly impact on net zero, such as electrification.
Aside from wider government initiatives, TWI has also shown support on a more local level, including a recently launched funded innovation development scheme for SMEs in the Tees Valley, with the aim of bringing innovative products to market.
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