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Designing for a Net Zero Future
A webinar hosted by HTS
I recently attended a webinar hosted by HTS as part of London Festival of Architecture titled "Designing for a Net Zero Future". I was a panelist and whilst I was mostly talking about the Circular Economy myself, others on stage put forward interesting perspectives on Net Zero Carbon.
Firstly, what is Net Zero Carbon? This is actually the simple bit. The two key points are that you should firstly minimise what carbon you are using/emitting, then offset the residual to bring you down to Net Zero. It is really important to realise that for this to have a meaningful impact, you cannot just use whatever carbon you like and then just pay to offset it - this would defeat the point. Also consider that there is a limited carbon sink on the planet (think finite number of trees and forests for example), so instead you must hit the carbon targets before you offset.
And what are the carbon targets to be hit, I hear you ask. Well the short answer is that collectively the carbon we use across all industries, all sectors, all countries must not exceed the targets set out in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Clearly we cannot all rely on our neighbours to exceed this if we are underachieving, so this is going to rely on major collaboration and possibly governments to step in and limit how much carbon different industries can emit. A game of negotiation perhaps?
The real complication comes when you consider how do you measure the carbon you have used and then calculate the required offset. It seems inevitable that in coming years that a carbon market will emerge (if you think it hasn't already), where carbon has a market price. This need will grow as we are increasingly required to measure, price and report the carbon we are using and offsetting. I'm not sure whether government will set this price or the free market (I hope the latter) but for this to work, confidence in the methodologies and market is key - we cannot afford a lack of trust.
And a mention of lack of trust is a useful prompt. Although many today claim to be 'net zero', until we have a better handle on how this is all calculated you should pause and question what sits behind such a claim. Make sure whoever is telling you this is not ignoring the targets and simply paying for the net zero badge.
A final thought came up on how we are decarbonising all that we do. First was the energy we use - fossil fuels at point of use or for major electrical generation is now being phased out as we look to greener energy. Next is the embodied carbon challenge as we try to reduced the carbon used or emitted in making or building stuff. And it was suggested that the increasingly popular Circular Economy agenda is going to be quick to follow, with a focus on material scarcity.
Shout-out to the other panelists:
Tim den Dekker - associate, Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios
Laura Batty - senior technical research engineer and HTS+ lead, Heyne Tillett Steel
Alastair Kenyon – partner, Alinea Cost Consultants
Hugh Queenan - associate, Morris + Company
Useful resources you might like to take a look at: