What are the real challenges with the net zero journey?

It’s currently a race against the calendar in the UK as businesses, individuals and the public sector work to achieve net zero embodied carbon by the deadline of 2050. But in focusing on the goal ahead, are we missing the challenges that we face in the here and now?

Commitment

One of the key reasons that the net zero 2050 deadline seems challenging is because in order for us to achieve it, every single person must be committed to doing so. While the vast majority of people want to see lower carbon emissions and an effort to improve the climate crisis, not everyone is committed, or able to commit, to the year in mind.

This could be because of a myriad of reasons but a large number of companies (especially small businesses) simply don’t have the means to know how to achieve this. Whether that’s because of staffing, supply chain or finances, there are a large portion of businesses who won’t be able to realistically set out a plan for becoming net zero by 2050.

Among those businesses that could commit to it, unfortunately, a lot of them haven’t. Achieving net zero won’t be easy by any means and it certainly won’t be cheap either. It will also potentially mean changing or eliminating a number of products or practices that have historically been high earners. So naturally, bigger corporations are reluctant to part with those funds to achieve the carbon neutral goal.

There are also ultimately still those who don’t care about the climate crisis or who continue to deny its existence but thankfully these make up a relatively small percentage of people. For the most part, people want to do good, it’s just whether or not that can be turned into a reality, and whether the government needs to do more to help people to make that step.

Budget

Meeting the 2050 goal date requires, like any goal does, a timeline, a strategy, an understanding or where you are now and how you get to where you want to be. All of these things in the context of a business, require time, manpower and money.

Even in order to come up with a plan to meet the 2050 goal in the first place, it requires a large amount of work to understand the environmental impact of  your current operations, supply chain and overall carbon footprint.

If businesses don’t have the budget to even get to the stage of making a plan, how are they supposed to come up with the funds to execute the work that could be needed in order to become carbon neutral.

Resources

And finally, there seems to be a large-scale underestimation of the resources required to become more sustainable as a country. 

For example, the residential sector is one with massive potential for improvement. While new build properties are already being built to Future Homes Standards with EPC ratings of A, older houses will require work in order to pull them up to the same level and cut the 20% of overall carbon emissions that they’re responsible for.

Even if the budget is funnelled from the government into making sure every house in the country is a lot greener, we would still find ourselves short of materials, time and skilled workers to complete the job, thanks to the current skills shortage and supply issues in the wake of Brexit.

If we in the UK are to achieve the 2050 net zero target in any kind of meaningful way, it’s going to require a real strategy, the funds to execute it and a plan as to how we work around the challenges we’re faced with. It may not be an easy ask, but it’s one worth fighting for.

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