Your Guide to Going Green: Top questions about Net Zero and Carbon Neutral Answered

November 29, 2021

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With the UK looking to reach a net-zero target by 2050, we all need to pitch in to do our bit for the environment.

 

Business guide to going green

 

Whilst walking to work, eating less meat, and consuming less are all things that individuals can do to help the planet, businesses across the UK also need to take action against climate change.

You would be forgiven for thinking that ‘going green’ is just another corporate buzzword. Yet issues of sustainability and climate change are thankfully being discussed at all levels of the business world, driven by consumers, employees and business leaders. With 75% of the UK population worried about the impact of climate change, now has never been a better time to step up and do your bit to help reach a net-zero target.

Yet if you’re a business looking to make a positive change, where should you start? With roughly 64% of Brits unaware of net zero as a concept, you may also be confused about what net zero means and how we can achieve it. If that’s you, worry not. Tariff.com is here to help guide your business through net zero and beyond.

 

What Do We Mean by Net Zero?

Whilst net zero may sound like a complicated, science-y term, it’s all about balancing the emissions we produce with the emissions taken in. It helps to picture a set of weighing scales.

On one side, you have all the emissions that are produced by a business, a country, or the world. On the other, you have all the emissions that are taken in by the ‘carbon sinks’ all around us, such as oceans and forests, or through technology like carbon capture.

When these scales are balanced, you’re at net zero and the amount of emissions we produce are no more than the amount absorbed by the planet. At the moment, the scales are thrown majorly off balance; we’re adding more emissions into the atmosphere than our planet can take in and this is having serious consequences for the environment.

 

Why Is Net Zero Important?

Within the scientific community, it’s widely accepted that these high levels of greenhouse gases are causing climate change. The gases act as a greenhouse (hence the name) trapping energy from the sun and warming the earth’s surface, causing global temperatures to increase.

Since the industrial revolution, average global temperatures have increased by around 1 degree... and we’re already starting to see the scary effects of climate change, in the form of extreme weather, flooding, wildfires and heatwaves.

If we continue on the path we’re on now, we could see temperatures increase as much as 3-5 degrees by 2100, taking us to a potential point of no return. As part of the Paris Agreement, world leaders have committed to limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. A net-zero strategy is essential to minimising global warming and climate change.

 

Why Must We Reach Net Zero by 2050?

Reaching a net-zero target is so important in the fight against climate change. The sooner we stop producing excess greenhouse gases the better. Going net zero by 2050 is a national target set by the UK Government. This target is legally-binding and was signed into law in 2019. It’s one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world- and will take a lot of investment and action to successfully pull off.

Alongside this target, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has also released a Net Zero Strategy. Transitioning to clean energy and investing in green technology is a big part of this strategy, as is ending the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.

 

Is Achieving Net Zero Really Possible?

Whilst achieving net-zero emissions is possible, the tight target of 2050 poses some serious challenges. With the deadline only 29 years away, some serious changes need to be made (and quickly). One of the biggest challenges to reaching net zero is ending global dependency on fossil fuels and transitioning to clean energy.

In October 2021, ahead of COP26, the UK Government unveiled a net-zero strategy to achieve its 2050 net-zero target, which includes a series of smaller targets such as:

  • Decarbonise power systems by 2035
  • No new gas boilers to be sold after 2035
  • Low carbon heating appliance in homes and businesses from 2035
  • Ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030

As well as extra investments in:

  • Boiler upgrade scheme
  • Offshore windfarms
  • Hydrogen production
  • Encouraging cycling and walking in cities
  • Small modular nuclear reactors
  • Tree planting

Only time will tell if the UK can meet this ambitious target but it’s safe to say that it will take a lot of effort and investment to make it happen.

 

What Is the Difference Between Net Zero and Carbon Neutral?

Whilst carbon neutral and net zero are similar terms that are often used interchangeable, there are some differences.

Carbon Neutral

  • Mainly focuses on not increasing carbon emission and achieves carbon reduction through offset schemes or by purchasing carbon credits.
  • Concerned primarily with carbon dioxide.
  • Only covers emissions that companies are directly responsible for, as well as emissions from purchasing energy.

Net Zero

  • Involves reducing your emissions to the lowest amount possible and using offsetting measures as a last resort.
  • Generally, encompasses other greenhouse gases such as methane.
  • Considers emissions generated across the whole value chain (i.e. emissions from purchased goods/services)
  • Needs a national and global effort to feel the real benefit of net-zero strategy, as established in the Paris Agreement.

Ultimately both terms involve offsetting carbon dioxide emissions with the aim of balancing the amount of CO2 that’s released and taken in. Net zero builds on the general principles of carbon neutrality but takes it a step further by putting the focus on reducing all emissions, not just CO2.  This is the strategy that most countries have adopted to tackle climate change and prevent global temperatures from increasing above that 1.5-degree limit.

 

Why Do Businesses Need to Measure Emissions?

If you’re looking to go net zero or carbon neutral, you first need to know what emissions your business produces. Beyond this, however, your business may have a legal obligation to measure and track its emissions. The UK Government currently has two reporting schemes that may affect your business:

SECR (Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting)

The SECR came into effect in April 2019 and requires all quoted, unquoted and LLPs to disclose both their energy usage and emissions on an annual basis. Companies that meet the following criteria are obligated to report this information or face a potential fine.

  • 250 or more employees
  • Yearly turnover of more than £36m
  • Annual balance sheet of £18m or more

In addition to this, companies must also report what action they are taking to increase the energy efficiency of their business. Whilst this only applies to larger companies that meet the above criteria, the Government also encourages all other companies to measure and report their energy use and emissions (although they’re not required to do so by law).

 

ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme)

The ES0S is an energy assessment and saving scheme that dates back to 2014. It’s a separate scheme to the SECR but for some organisations, there will be a crossover and they’ll have to complete both. Unlike the SECR, however, ESOS reporting is only required every 4 years. Organisations or UK undertakings qualify for ESOS if they:

  • Employ 250 or more people
  • Have an annual turnover of over €50 million and an annual balance sheet of €43 million or over

As laid out on the gov.uk website, the ESOS comprises of several main stages, including:

  • Identifying all parts of an organisation
  • Identifying total energy consumption
  • Identifying significant energy consumption (at least 90% of your total energy consumption)
  • Carrying out an audit on all significant energy consumption
  • Identifying energy savings opportunities

 

How Can Businesses Measure Emissions?

For many businesses, measuring your energy usage and emissions can seem like a mammoth task. Whether you run a large or small business, there are multiple factors you need to consider. Thankfully there is a range of options available to businesses when it comes to measuring and tracking energy/emissions:

Manually Calculate Emissions

If you want to calculate your energy consumption and emissions yourself, there are many free resources available to support you. The SME Climate Hub offers extensive information and measurement tools to make working out your carbon footprint easier.

Outsource to a Consultant

If you don’t want to hassle of measuring your carbon emissions yourself, you could always outsource the job to professional carbon consultants. This will come with a fee, however, so may not be accessible to SMEs. Larger benefits that are obligated to complete the SECR or ESOS could benefit from hiring professionals.

Use Measuring Software

As technology develops, AI and other software are now able to track and measure your energy usage and carbon emissions. Take IPSUM, for example. By connecting small IoT sensors to your energy use points, IPSUM enables you to measure how much energy is being used, as well as when and where. This allows you to track and measure your energy and emissions from one user-friendly dashboard.

 

How Tariff.com Can Help

At Tariff.com, we’ve made it our mission to help businesses just like yours make a positive change for the planet. That’s why our team of energy consultants are helping to support your business on your green journey.

Reduce Energy Consumption

At Tariff.com, we can help your business identify where you’re consuming the most energy and provide advice to help you reduce your usage.

Measure Carbon Emissions

By carrying out a carbon survey, we can help your business to measure its carbon emissions, as well as offer advice on how to reduce your footprint.

Offset Carbon Emissions

We’re partnering with accredited carbon offset projects to help your business achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral or net-zero emissions.

 

At Tariff.com, we’ve made it our mission to help businesses make a positive change for the future. Climate change is an issue that affects us all and business leaders have an obligation to join the fight. Whether you’re looking to switch to a green tariff, manage your energy usage or reach a net-zero goals, our consultants are here to support you and your business.

If you’re business is looking to start its green journey, get in touch with the Tariff.com team today. Our friendly consultant can provide all the information and guidance you need to take your business to net-zero.