COP26 in Glasgow
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. In 2021 it will be held in Glasgow, between 31 October and 12 November 2021.
COP26 is the time to make the change towards achieving net zero, as a business, as a community and as an individual. Our South of Scotland for Net Zero website provides case studies, toolkits and signposting resources for everyone to make the transition, as well as celebrating those who are on the journey.
Are you, or someone you know, already working towards net zero? Why not nominate a net zero hero below.
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Latest Stories and News
Here are the latest articles that showcase the outstanding work underway across the South of Scotland to achieve net zero.
Students from Borders College paid a visit to the doctor’s recently, to learn more about how properties can be re-purposed
Borders College Launches Strategy to Bring in Sustainable Behavioural Change in Quest to Reach Net Zero
Partners and politicians joined the team from Borders College recently as the region’s tertiary education institute launched their ambitious Sustainability
Written by Angela Cox, Borders College Principal Students are more engaged in the world around them and feel more empowered
THE COUNTDOWN HAS STARTED
THE COUNTDOWN HAS STARTED
The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 is being hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November 2021. The countdown is well and truly on, and this is where you’ll find the latest COP26 and Net Zero news from across the South of Scotland in the run up to the big event.
Get on the path to achieving net zero today.
It’s not always easy to make the change, so we have compiled a list of resources to help you on your net zero journey.
Evidence shows that our planet has been getting hotter. The warmest 20 years on record have been in the last 22 years according to the World Meteorological Organisation, and the warmest four were all very recent: 2015 to 2018. Global average temperatures are now 1℃ higher than in the pre-industrial era.
A degree doesn’t sound like a lot, but the reality is that this incremental warming already appears to be having a negative impact. What’s more, if recent trends continue, this is set to worsen, with predictions of global temperatures increasing by as much as 3-5℃ by 2100.
Even with this tiny rise in global temperatures, we are feeling the effects of climate change, with erratic weather patterns, including heatwaves, floods and severe storms, loss of polar ice, and rising sea levels. This will only get worse if global warming intensifies.
It’s widely recognised by scientists and governments that climate change is being triggered by higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Their name derives from the greenhouse effect they create by warming the Earth’s surface and the air above it. This is caused by gases that trap energy from the sun. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane.
Carbon dioxide is the most dangerous and abundant of the greenhouse gases, which is why cutting carbon emissions, carbon footprints or seeking low-carbon alternatives are suggested as ways to address climate change.
The excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is triggering harmful global warming, so reducing the amount of these gases should help to tackle climate change. This can be done in two ways:
- lower the emissions we are sending into the atmosphere from activities such as industrial processes, power generation, transport and intensive agriculture
- remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, for example by capturing carbon created during industrial processes before it’s released or planting more trees
Put simply, net-zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net-zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.
Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.
Think about it like a bath – turn on the taps and you add more water, pull out the plug and water flows out. The amount of water in the bath depends on both the input from the taps and the output via the plughole. To keep the amount of water in the bath at the same level, you need to ensure that the input and output are balanced.
Reaching net zero applies the same principle, requiring us to balance the amount of greenhouse gases we emit with the amount we remove. When what we add is no more than what we take away we reach net zero. This state is also referred to as carbon neutral; although zero emissions and zero carbon are slightly different, as they usually mean that no emissions were produced in the first place.
Given the impact that carbon emissions have on our planet, you might wonder why we aren’t aiming for zero, or gross zero, rather than net zero. Gross zero would mean stopping all emissions, which isn’t realistically attainable across all sectors of our lives and industry. Even with best efforts to reduce them, there will still be some emissions.
Net zero looks at emissions overall, allowing for the removal of any unavoidable emissions, such as those from aviation or manufacturing. Removing greenhouse gases could be via nature, as trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or through new technology or changing industrial processes.
We need to reach net zero emissions to achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement, which is to hold global average temperature increase to “well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5℃”.
The IPCC’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5℃ makes it clear that it is necessary to achieve a global balance between emissions and removals by 2050 to cap the rise in global temperatures below 1.5℃.
While the Paris Agreement sets a global objective, action to achieve that objective is driven at the national level; each country is responsible for setting its own policies to achieve the common goal. The delivery of these policies will take place at the local level. All countries, cities and businesses need to develop plans as to how they intend to achieve net zero.
There are a few reasons why the target date set by the Scottish Government is 2045. But it’s important to remember that if we are to reach this target by the middle of this century, considerable changes will need to take place well before that date and ideally before 2030.
If other countries follow the UK’s lead and reach net zero emissions by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change advised there would be a 50% chance of avoiding a ‘catastrophic’ 1.5℃ temperature rise by the year 2100.
The year 2045 was also seen as the first realistic date for net zero emissions to be achieved, balancing the urgent need to take action with the inevitable impact on the economy.
There are different official carbon targets for different parts of the UK. England has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and Wales has aligned with the same target but with ambitions to get there sooner.
And the Committee on Climate Change has advised Northern Ireland to cut carbon emissions by at least 82% by 2050, after noting that the country’s agricultural emissions would likely prevent it from reaching net zero in the next 30 years.
It is a bold target that will require significant changes within the next 10 years (not just by 2045) if Scotland is to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to ‘net zero’ by the middle of the century. But according to figures released in March 2021, our emissions have already reduced by 48.8% from 1990 levels (although the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions from transport and industry in 2020).
If we put aside the impact of Covid-19 for a moment, this reduction is largely due to changing the way we generate energy. However, we will also need to change the way we use energy in our lives.
The Committee on Climate Change maintains we will be able to reach this target using ‘currently known’ technologies. But it will also require clear and consistent policies to reduce emissions, alongside changes in people’s lives.
Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is not going to be cheap. In its Sixth Carbon Budget released last year, the Committee on Climate Change estimated that the annual cost of achieving net zero would be 0.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) by the early 2030s, falling to around 0.5% by 2050.
This would mean increasing investment in low carbon technologies from around £10 billion in 2020 to £50 billion by 2050.
What’s clear is that not aiming for net zero is not an option. The costs of disastrous effects of climate change if left unchecked will be much higher than the costs of achieving net zero: many trillions of pounds, according to some estimates.
Ultimately you can’t put a price on the benefits of achieving net zero. And it’s not just about cutting emissions. It’s also about bringing about a better way of life: cleaner air and water, warmer and healthier homes, cleaner transport, greener spaces and better habitats for our wildlife.