UK Could Become ‘Net Zero by 2050’ Using Negative Emissions
By Daisy Dunne
The UK could cut its emissions to "net-zero" within the next three decades by stepping up investment into technologies that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere, a report finds.
However, such methods, which are known collectively as "negative emissions technologies" (NETs), would only be effective if paired with drastic efforts to cut the UK's current rate of emissions, the findings suggest.
The report, published jointly by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, evaluates how the UK could capitalize on a range of proposed techniques from "natural climate solutions," such as planting forests, to more experimental methods, including capturing CO2 directly from the air.
The findings show that the UK "must act quickly" to ramp up "research and investigation" into a suite of NETs, the report's chair told Carbon Brief at a press briefing in London.
To keep to this limit, countries will collectively need to reach "net-zero" emissions—a scenario where the total amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere is balanced by the total amount taken out—by sometime in the second half of this century.
For the UK to achieve such a target, it will need to "prioritise rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions"—largely through the adoption of low-carbon sources of energy, construction and food production, according to the authors of the report, which was commissioned by the UK government's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
However, for some industries, such as aviation and agriculture, it will be almost impossible to cut emissions down to zero, says professor Corinne Le Quéré, a report author and director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.
In the video below, she explains why the use of NETs could be necessary to counteract the "emissions we don't know how to bring down to zero."
The 133-page report assesses the potential carbon storage of a wide range of proposed NETs, as well as their potential co-benefits and risks.
This information has been used to create a scenario for the UK in 2050 whereby a suite of NETs are used to reach net-zero emissions.
The UK currently emits around 450m tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) a year. Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is committed to an 80 percent reduction in emissions by the year 2050, relative to 1990 levels.
However, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)—the independent body that advises the government on climate policy—has suggested that, if efforts to reduce emissions are increased, the UK could exceed this target. This would lead to annual emissions of 130m tonnes of CO2e by 2050.
The new scenario assumes that the UK does manage to slash its emissions and that a mix of NETs are used to balance out the remaining 130m tonnes of CO2e in 2050.
The chart below shows the expected relative contributions of nine techniques. The first five are grouped into "ready to deploy" methods, such as planting forests (pink), restoring habitats such as peatlands and wetlands (purple), enhancing the amount of carbon stored in the soil (blue), building with wood—or "biomass" (green) and using low-carbon concrete for construction (orange).
The potential of various technologies to offset UK emissions (in millions of tonnes of CO2e) in 2050Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering
The scenario envisages that these "ready to deploy" techniques will be rapidly rolled out across the UK—taking up around 35m tonnes of CO2e, just over a quarter of the UK's total annual emissions, by 2050.
The rapid deployment of these "natural" techniques would cause considerable land-use change, according to the report.
For example, the scenario assumes that the UK will plant an additional 1.2m hectares of forest—an area roughly the size of the West Midlands. Many of these forests would be monocultures made up of species such as willow or poplar, the scientists told the press briefing.
However, this group of techniques could also come with considerable co-benefits, the scientists added. For instance, increasing the carbon storage potential of the UK's peatlands and wetlands through habitat restoration could boost natural flood defenses and provide more space for native wildlife, the report shows.
The second group on the diagram includes two technologies that are "not yet demonstrated at scale." These are "enhanced weathering" (pale green)—a process where silicate rocks are spread over soils in order to boost the natural process of weathering, which causes CO2 to turn into solid bicarbonate—and the use of "biochar"—a carbon-rich charcoal which, when sprinkled on land, can boost soil carbon storage.
The scenario suggests that these two techniques could offset 20m tonnes of CO2e (or 15 percent of the UK's total emissions) by 2050—with enhanced weathering accounting for three quarters of this figure.
To be effective, biochar would need to spread over a quarter of all of the UK's arable land, the report says, while enhanced weathering would need to be undertaken on just under a quarter of all arable land.
The two techniques would need to be applied separately, the report adds, meaning that, together, the methods would need to be applied to just under half of all of the UK's croplands.
The report notes that both methods are at a "low-level of technology readiness" and that their contribution to offsetting emissions could grow larger in the second half of the century. For enhanced weathering, around two thirds of the silicate rock needed could be provided by waste materials from the industries including cement and steel, the report adds.
The last set of technologies are labelled "requiring CCS [carbon capture and storage]". There are two of these—direct air capture with carbon capture and storage (DACC; brown on the diagram) and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS; crimson on the diagram).
DACC involves using machines to directly "suck" CO2 out of the air and then store it underground. BECCS involves burning crops to create bioenergy, capturing the resulting greenhouse gas emissions in a power plant and storing them underground.
The scenario assumes that these two technologies will offset 75m tonnes of CO2e—almost 58 percent of the UK's total emissions—by 2050.
However, the report acknowledges that "neither BECCS nor DACCS have yet been demonstrated to operate at a large scale" and that the development of CCS will be key for the UK to meet its emissions targets. In the report, the authors say:
"Crucially, meeting the UK target, therefore, depends on rapid development of the carbon transportation and storage infrastructure required for CCS."
A major barrier to the development of CCS is the cost associated with directly capturing CO2 from the atmosphere.
The report shows that, if deployed, BECCS could require around 1m hectares of UK land—largely farmland—to be converted into biomass plantations. This could have consequences for biodiversity and food security, according to the report authors.
To reach the scenario outlined in the report, the UK will need to "act quickly" to boost investments in negative emissions research, says professor Gideon Henderson, chair of the report working group from the University of Oxford. At the sidelines of the press briefing, he told Carbon Brief:
"The report makes it clear that we would need to act quickly, we would need to ramp up reforestation. In the slightly longer term, we would need to develop technologies that are somewhat unproven, such as biochar. We need research and investigation into those techniques now so we're ready to pursue them in the coming decades. We also need to establish—as soon as we can—CCS infrastructure and scale that up, so that we're ready to store the CO2 that is extracted using future techniques."
Scaling up NETs would also require changes to UK policy, the researchers say. For example, increasing the price on carbon would be "necessary" to make CO2 removal economically feasible, the report finds.
In addition, the government will need to introduce more incentives for techniques such as afforestation and enhancing soil carbon stocks.
On Tuesday (September 11), Conservative MP Simon Clarke handed in a letter to the government—backed by 132 MPs and 51 peers—calling for the UK to adopt a net-zero emissions target before 2050.
In a press statement, Clarke said:
"To bring our climate back into balance we have to finally end our emissions. We have led the world in confronting this problem and can lead in solving it, drawing on our engineering and scientific prowess that will help bring us to net zero."
Emissions Must Fall By Mid-Century to Meet Paris Temperature Goals, Study Finds https://t.co/pvrOWNHG8V… https://t.co/GtjJE8fkeG— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1522162206.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.