Greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem. In a bold new goal from earlier this year, the UK is setting out to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and achieve a net-zero goal by 2050. For the global giant to achieve this objective, it’s going to take a lot of policy changes, incentives, and behavior change in the next three decades.
Current Global Emissions Leaders
Greenhouse gases are released from many different activities. Car engine exhausts, industrial activity, and other forms of fuel burning release these gases into the atmosphere. The main gases in this group are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These gases contribute to global warming, which leads to climate change.
Nations around the world make different contributions to the volume of greenhouse gases released into the environment. This is determined by their sizes, industrial activity, and population, among other factors. The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters can also be compared using the greenhouse gases emitted per capita. This alternative measure takes into consideration the different population sizes of different nations. The largest contributors by emissions per capita are Kuwait and Brunei. The largest contributors by total emissions are China, the United States, the European Union, and India.
Achieving an Ambitious Goal
The UK government’s specific goal is to reduce emissions by at least 80 percent of their 1995 levels by 2050. This was part of the Climate Change Act of 2008 agreed on in parliament. The goal has been taken further as of May 2019 to bring the UK’s greenhouse gases emissions down to a net of zero.
Achieving this goal is going to bring their emissions down significantly. The goal has received wide praise from various environmental groups. It is a major move, and the first such step from a world leader. It is hoped that other countries are going to follow suit and put in place similar goals and measures to reduce their own greenhouse gas emission levels as well. Scotland has also put in place a goal of net-zero emissions by 2045. Although the goal seems great on paper, some are questioning whether they are possible and if it might be too late to counter climate change.
The benefits of cutting down emissions are numerous. Besides reducing the impact on climate change, there are also numerous health benefits. The UK government foresees a significant improvement in public health care, and this is set to reduce the National Health Service (NHS) bill.
To achieve net-zero emissions, the UK needs to eliminate most of its greenhouse gas emissions. These come from industry, the transport sector, farming, and homes. Additionally or alternatively, various counteractions to eliminate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are required. One of these is planting enough trees to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thereby bringing down the net emissions.
Specific changes that need to be adopted in the UK are going to require tough decisions to be made at the individual and national level about energy, transport, buildings, and more. Most emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels for gassing and transport. Alternatives to these like renewable energy need to be adopted on a larger scale. Solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles ate some of the cleaner and greener solutions to the greenhouse gas challenge.
Phasing out some fossil fuels such as coal is definitely on the cards. If fossil fuel usage is to be maintained, carbon capture and storage capabilities need to be built up to limit the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by the combustion of these fuels.