In June 2019, the UK Government pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This commitment is part of the government’s plan to tackle climate change and leave a better world for our children than the one we have all inherited. At the time of the pledge, then Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement saying there was a “moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than what we inherited.”

Since then, a great deal has been achieved and implemented by the UK Government, alongside improving practices by the UK population as a whole. More recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that under the Green Homes Grant, the UK Government would provide vouchers to homeowners and landlords to pay for up to £5,000 – £10,000 worth of work to improve energy efficiency and green credentials of properties across England.  The Scheme was due to end March 2022. However, in March 2021, the Government closed the scheme with 4 days notice.

What does ‘net zero greenhouse gases’ mean?

‘Net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions means that the UK will aim to balance the amount of greenhouse gases being produced with the amount being removed from the atmosphere. Net zero does not mean that no greenhouse gases will be produced, but rather the UK will be in balance; putting out as much into the environment as we remove from it.

What are greenhouse gases?

The Climate Change Act of 2008 requires the UK Government to set out five-yearly carbon targets which they aim to meet, running until 2032. The Climate Change Act 2008 also named six major greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. These are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. A large portion of the UK’s greenhouse gases are made up of carbon dioxide, which is primarily released by burning fossil fuels. This could be anything from coal power stations to the petrol you put into your car. The other five greenhouse gases are primarily linked to agriculture and waste management solutions.

What is being done to make the UK greener?

Even before the 2019 pledge to cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, the UK’s production of greenhouse gases have been steadily falling over the last 30 years. Although levels have risen globally, by 2018, UK emissions stood at 57% of their 1990 levels.

It is anticipated that the UK is not currently on track to meet the 2050 deadline for net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching this goal will require large-scale change and reform towards sustainable practice in a wide range of areas, including home energy efficiency. Making these changes will, over time be costly and time-consuming for the government, but the shorter-term investments re well worth the benefits to be had in years and decades to come.

What does the future hold for the UK’s green credentials?

The government announced policy changes in response to pressure around the quality of the air we breathe and the environment both nationally and internationally. This has resulted in the government introducing a range of laws, regulations and ambitions for the future, including bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2030. Some cities are taking matters into their own hands, like Bristol which is banning diesel cars from entering the city during the day from 2021.