Carbon Net Zero by 2050

From heating our homes to filling up our cars, burning fossil fuel releases greenhouse gases that increase global temperatures. We are already seeing the effects here in the UK, with devastating floods and unusually high summer temperatures.

People are rightly concerned, with the latest IPCC report showing that if we fail to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the floods, and fires we have seen around the world this year will become more frequent and more fierce. Crops are more likely to fail, and sea levels will rise, driving mass migration as millions are forced from their homes. Above 1.5°C we risk reaching climatic tipping points like the melting of arctic permafrost, releasing millennia of stored greenhouse gases , meaning we could lose control of our climate for good.

But the good news is that there is, still, a path to avoid catastrophic climate change. The science could not be clearer: by the middle of this century the world has to reduce emissions to as close to zero as possible, with the small amount of remaining emissions absorbed through natural carbon sinks, such as forests.

Today, buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions, with homes alone accounting for nearly 20%. Property emissions are a combination of two things. The first is the day-to-day running of a building: energy used to light up, heat or cool homes, office blocks and shopping malls. The carbon produced in this way is “operational,” and accounts for 27% of all annual carbon emissions globally. The second is “embodied” carbon, which refers to emissions tied to the building process, maintenance, and any demolition. Overall, embodied carbon is responsible for around 10% of annual emissions, though it will vary depending on the type of building.

The Government’s Timber in Construction road map, part of the Net Zero 2050 programme, outlines one particular solution to the need for active reduction in carbon emissions to reach net zero and that is for UK construction to use more timber.

Here is how.