COP26 and the road to Net Zero

by Andrew Marsh

By now you have probably heard all about COP26 and what the outcomes were regarding our 1.5℃ threshold, so I won’t go over this again in great detail. The gist of it is that this year was the first year there were any targets in place specifically regarding the use of coal as a power source.

Whether you think the outcome of that is good or not enough; the fact that we have something in place and only one year, not five, for the world leaders to do something about it before revising their targets is an initial win to work upon.

With the obligatory coal mention out of the way I want to bring you down the rabbit hole of Net Zero vs Real Zero with me.

I heard this term on a podcast about COP26. Talking with other reporters at COP the overall feel was that we are not going to meet our targets with emission offsetting alone. Since hearing this I may or may not have gotten way too interested in this.

Every target we have at the moment revolves around “Net Zero” emissions.

I always thought this was great, get net zero, save the planet. I never thought about HOW that would happen on a global scale or what it would actually require to be net zero.

The current working plan is to reduce little bits of our carbon production and offset the rest. The best way to offset the rest at present is to plant new trees.

COP26 solar panels


This sounds great in theory, then you realise that Shell requires an area about the size of England to offset its carbon emissions. This strategy is not sustainable for the long term.

We need to reduce our actual dependence on carbon producing energy sources.

Houses are required to be more energy efficient now which is fantastic. Appliances are more energy efficient now than ever before, again fantastic. There are also new technologies on the horizon to help us achieve this.

Once such technology is Plentigrade which I thought was a brilliant use of an already existing technology.
But there are plenty more if you look around.

In order to get Real Zero we are all going to have to take advantage of new technologies as they become available.

However, we already have proven ways to reduce our own dependence on coal and lower our own emissions: Solar Power, Solar Hot Water and Home Batteries. Batteries are already our best option to reduce carbon emissions without relying on new technology.

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