3 key pieces of net zero legislation you should know about
Widespread change requires systemic change. Driving towards a net-zero society requires us to reexamine legislation and put in place sanctions and measures that will help to curb activities with severe environmental impact, and promote those with low impact.
Climate change has already been ramping up on the agendas of government bodies all over the world for the last decade or so – but with the problem becoming increasingly urgent, and a line in the sand of 2050 drawn for many countries to reach net-zero emissions, legislative changes are being proposed and being locked into the roadmap for the near future.
With that in mind, in this post, we’ll look at 3 key pieces of net zero-related legislation you need to be aware of.
Commitment to net-zero emissions
In the UK and a number of other countries, the commitment to reaching net-zero emissions has been made into legislation in itself. The Climate Change Act 2008 outlined the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 relative to the levels in 1990. Secondary legislation was passed under former prime minister Theresa May in June 2019 to extend this target to “at least 100%”. Although this imposes a legal commitment on the government, there is some question around how exactly this will be enforced. There is a proposed “Office for Environmental Protection” which would have enforcement powers, and the courts would also intervene if it was felt that the government was not properly accountable for its climate change commitments.
Ban on the sale of fossil fuel vehicles
The environmental impact of fossil fuel vehicles is well documented. It’s estimated that over a year, just one electric car can represent an average saving of 1.5 million grams of CO2 compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. With the benefits clear, many legislative bodies are bringing in measures to phase out the sale of ICE vehicles.
Currently, in the UK, the ban on the sale of fossil fuels is yet to be cemented in legislation, however it is proposed that it will come into effect in 2030. At this point the sale of some hybrids will be allowed, but the focus will be on a shift to electric vehicles. A number of other countries have impending bans on selling fossil fuel vehicles within their government and climate plans. Norway is aiming to be the first country to introduce measures to phase them out by 2025. In the final months of 2020, they became the first country to sell more electric vehicles than petrol, hybrid and diesel, accounting for more than two-thirds of car sales – so they appear to be well on the way to meeting their target.
An important point to note is that the energy used to power electric vehicles (e.g., batteries) is still produced using fossil fuels in many parts of the world, so there is still work to be done around energy production and storage to make electric vehicles a truly low emission alternative.
Future homes standard
Around 40% of the UK’s emissions come from households. Although the average UK home’s footprint decreased by 4.7 tonnes of CO2 between 1990 and 2014, further reductions are needed to help us reach our climate targets. The government is therefore looking at measures to reduce the environmental impact of heating and power and improve the general efficiency of new homes built in the near future.
The Future Homes Standard sets out proposed new building standards for new homes built after 2025 with a view to reducing their environmental impact by 75-80%. Key changes to current building regulations centre on installing low-carbon heating and/or renewables, and improving fabric standards to increase efficiency. Put simply, any homes built after 2025 should not have a gas boiler, instead relying on heat pumps, heat networks and direct electric heating – which could reduce an individual home’s impact on the environment by as much as 3.2 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The government will first update the Building Regulations later this year to ensure new homes built from 2022 produce 31% less carbon emissions compared to current standards. In 2023, the government will consult about technical aspects of the Future Homes Standard before updating the Regulations again to come into force in 2025.
The engineering challenges of reaching net zero by 2050 are significant. Elmelin have a long history of providing innovative thermal solutions for high temperatures in heavy industry. We continue to work on projects such as installing microporous insulation in rotary kilns. We are heavily involved in solutions for the EV market in automotive. Our target as a business is to generate 50% of our revenues from net zero solutions by 2025. We are busy working closely with our customers to develop innovative insulation solutions to help them tackle these specific climate challenges and many more. By working in partnership with you, we can help you to consider and comply with current and future legislation around reducing emissions. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch.