What does net zero mean?
Simply put “net zero” means that you remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as you emit. This is the goal the UK government have set to achieve by 2050.
How do they plan to do this?
The first problem the government will tackle is the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. They will do this by fitting carbon capture technology to industrial chimneys. The captured carbon will then be forced into porous underground rock, locking it away forever. The one drawback is this process is quite expensive. The very latest technology can even turn CO2 into useful chemicals.
Next the UK government want to produce energy without emitting carbon in the first place. They want to do this with nuclear; but not as you know it. If you look back in nuclear history, constructing large nuclear plants very often go over budget and over schedule. In turn the UK government want to instead build a series of smaller module nuclear reactors. The plan is to have the parts manufactured at scale to reduce cost and delivered to site and assembled on site. Think a meccano nuclear reactor set.
Another avenue that will be looked at is hydrogen power. Fun fact! Hydrogen is the lightest element on earth. There are sectors that hope we can replace the natural gas we burn with hydrogen; and that hydrogen will be the future of powering vehicles. They question still lingers among many that, can hydrogen still be classed as a “fossil fuel”? This is due to some part of the hydrogen producing process known as steam reforming which does create the by product CO2. There is a way of producing hydrogen by splitting water using wind energy which would make it a form of clean energy, but this is very costly.
We have already mention nuclear, but that is conventional nuclear fission. Which involves splitting atoms to create energy. What will be looked at a source of energy is nuclear fusion, which involves fusing atoms together. The main benefit of fusion over fission is that fusion creates much more energy, so even go as far as limitless! Further benefits include, no emissions, cheap fuel and little radioactive waste.
How will they track their progress?
Carbon budgets. A carbon budget is a constraint that is put in place on carbon emissions over pre set period of time. The UK will use carbon budgets as a metric to keep track of their transition to net zero economy.