Global Net Zero by 2050: what is it and what contribution will EQTEC make?

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass legislation committing to Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.

Many other countries have since committed to their own goals. Achieving challenging Net Zero outcomes in such a short timeframe will require coordinated and consistent support between policy makers, investors and innovative low carbon technologies, so that those innovations can be implemented at scale.

While there are many encouraging signs in each of these three areas, let’s look at current Net Zero targets around the world, at how EQTEC’s Advanced Gasification Technology can help reach them and at the United Nations COP26 event.

The European Union's Net Zero targets

The EU has committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and cutting GHG emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030 – an increase from its previous target of a 40% reduction.

How does the EU intend to achieve these targets?

On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a package of eight legislative proposals that set more stringent goals on existing laws and five new laws, incorporating measures to reach these headline targets, called ‘Fit for 55’. Existing EU legislation is being revised including: the EU emissions trading system, to lower emissions caps and increase the annual rate of emissions reduction; plus efforts to set stronger emissions reduction targets for member states, improve renewable, taxation and efficiency targets in the energy sector, protection for land, agriculture and forestry use whilst achieving carbon-neutrality. New laws for maritime and air travel fuel, to name only a few, will be established.

In complement to Fit for 55, on 21 April 2021, the European Commission approved in principle its new Sustainable Finance Taxonomy to enable the EU Green Deal. Currently being examined by legislators, it is intended to be a common EU-wide classification system for sustainable economic activities aimed at directing investments towards sustainable projects. We welcome the intent behind the initiative, which we hope ensures that investors can assess and plan profits from new lower carbon technologies.

As one example for improvement, when it comes to the waste-to-energy infrastructure and wider sector, investors are still making decisions based on their risk and reward, with focus only at the stage they commit and over a too narrow return period. We believe that investors and project delivery companies should seek to assess and spread risk over the full lifecycle of projects that support a circular economy over their lifetime – these projects should aim to increase both economic and environmental value in their local area.

The United States’ Net Zero targets

Under President Biden, the US has re-joined the Paris Agreement, adopted at the UN COP 21 and committed to reaching net zero GHG emissions no later than 2050. In April this year, following a government-wide review organised by the National Climate Task Force, the US formally committed to a new target of a 50 – 52% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 based on 2005 levels.

How does the US intend to achieve these targets?

The administration has not set out any detailed policy commitments or incentives for how it intends to reach these targets. While we expect them to do so, perhaps at the upcoming COP 26 event, there is no clear timeline set out.

The United Kingdom‘s Net Zero targets

The UK’s original ambition was to establish Net Zero GHG by 2050 to help keep the rise in global temperatures close to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels.

In response to the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget in April 2021, the government announced a new target to reduce territorial emissions by 78% relative to 1990 levels, and to have UK electricity production emit zero carbon, both by 2035. Meeting these targets would see the UK more than three-quarters of the way to Net Zero in just 14 years from now – the most ambitious targets yet set by any country.

How does the UK government aim to achieve these targets?

In supporting businesses, investors, stakeholders, and the wider public to meet these targets, the government’s main focus since November 2020 has been its ‘Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution’, which in part aims accelerate Net Zero goals, with a policy underlying each ‘point’, some of which are underway. The focus areas include: supporting the move to zero emission vehicles; promoting green public transport; establishing ‘jet zero’ aviation; creating better support for ‘greener’ buildings; investing in carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS); protecting the natural environment; quadrupling offshore wind capacity by 2035; investing in nuclear power; driving growth of low carbon production capacity by 2030; and encouraging green finance and innovation.

The UK’s Net Zero Strategy

Much debate has occurred about the so-called cost of Net Zero, with the UK Treasury and some high-level politicians questioning whether the country can afford the measures needed. The government set out the full UK Net Zero Strategy and associated spending in October 2021, with investment across a number of areas. This is relevant because, as many point out, the cost of ‘doing nothing’ is projected to be far, far higher. 

No more clearly was this demonstrated than in the middle of September 2021, when international gas demand, and therefore prices, increased and the UK Government organised emergency talks between Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ofgem (the energy regulator), energy generators, suppliers and the wider industry to troubleshoot a combination of global gas prices, increased demand for electricity and ensuring the stability and security of vital energy and food supplies. There are many structural market design issues that both the UK and other countries must resolve during the energy transition, including: the approach to nuclear; the projected increases that the country needs in power generation; balancing overall energy capacity with demand; gas prices, storage and demand; increasing energy efficiency in buildings; and ensuring a fully-functioning retail supply market that gives consumers confidence and transparency in their provider.

Commenting on the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy, David Palumbo, CEO EQTEC plc, said: “Just over two years since the UK was the first major economy to pass legislation committing to Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, and with further ambitious targets subsequently set, EQTEC welcomes the release of the Government’s Net Zero Strategy ahead of COP26. The Strategy is a significant milestone where the UK is once again demonstrating clear leadership to the rest of the world. We are particularly encouraged by the £75 million for Net Zero related R&D across Natural Resources, Waste & F-gases up to 2037, as well as the continuation of broader ambitions to decarbonise key sectors with high emissions while driving green growth. 
“It is now time for a truly integrated cross-departmental approach in Whitehall, one with clearly managed action plans, goals and monitoring put in place to meet the UK’s comprehensive Net Zero 2035 and 2050 targets. We believe the only way to achieve the targets is by taking decisions based on improved outcomes for the environment, including mechanisms, measurement and ratings that reward better end-to-end carbon efficiency and reducing total emissions – especially of the most hazardous pollutants. Combined with strong national public regulation and incentives, and support from local authorities, this will enable further investment in cleantech, including in advanced thermal conversion technologies such as gasification for waste-to-energy. EQTEC’s mission remains focused on its contribution to a Net Zero economy, by reducing levels of waste in communities and more efficiently generating greener electricity and heat as well as hydrogen, biofuels, SNG and biochar at scale.”
Achieving global Net Zero: the energy transition in practice with EQTEC
With all the efforts being made by EU, UK and US governments, the problems we are focused on solving work in tandem to: 
1. Reduce volumes of waste – both organic (forestry and agriculture biomass) and municipal
2. Efficiently generate electricity, heat, hydrogen and SNG (synthetic natural gas) and biochar from our pure syngas – reducing existing CO2 emissions and actively removing other toxic GHG.
In terms of accelerating the clean energy transition, we also believe policymakers should do more to stop schemes that reward large established energy-from-waste companies for the volume of the waste they process and instead look to encourage large-scale end-to-end carbon efficiency of waste to energy generation, and put in place improvements to ensure transparent measurement and reporting. 
Image of two refuse waste people emptying a bin into a bin truck and a red bin in the for ground. EQTEC are marketing leaders in the gasification industry. Click to find out more.

Where EQTEC’s Advanced Gasification Technology can help to achieve global Net Zero

  • Generating energy, more efficiently, while reducing GHG emissions
The projects we develop with our Advanced Gasification Technology inside can be configured to generate electricity, heat – these applications are the most important to enable the energy transition at scale today – as well as hydrogen, SNG and biochar. Plus the plants emit 25-30% less CO2 than other energy-from-waste technologies, while also producing no fly ash of other short-term climate pollutants. 
Using Advanced Gasification to produce energy-from-waste is more sustainable than using legacy or large-scale technologies, which produce large volumes of CO2 and other GHGs and do not support local circular economy principles. Gasification has been proven commercially and at scale and by converting waste, specifically and predominantly into green electricity and heat at scale, can contribute most meaningfully towards decarbonising energy generation and help to achieve Net Zero, right now. 
  • Supporting the circular economy
Gasification can also be used to convert local wastes into heat or energy for local use where there is stated market demand, thereby supporting the circular economy and reducing carbon footprints even further. Any excess energy generated can be fed into the country’s national grid or used to produce heat for district heating, which we support where it can be applied at scale, for example in areas with high density of domestic users, or high-volume demand from commercial users, as well as produce SNG.
  • Provide environmental protection to areas at risk of forest fires
Gasification is already being used to produce biochar from waste wood, and our project in North Fork, California, USA, will create this material once operational. Doing so reduces forestry waste and the risk of forest fires, achieves net negative emissions with carbon abatement, the biochar can be used as a soil substrate in reforestation, or to support local agriculture to create natural carbon capture outcomes – and the gasification plants generate green electricity for the local area. 

COP26 and firming up the road to Net Zero

When it comes to shaping the global climate change agenda and confirming or strengthening targets, attention was fully focused on what more governments would – or would not – commit to at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

COP26 took place against the backdrop of the sixth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Published in August 2021 and titled Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, the global scientific community was unequivocal that human influence has warmed the planet, the recent changes are unprecedented and limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching ‘at least net zero CO2 emissions”, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.

With all this in mind, we monitored announcements on Thursday 4th November (Energy Day) and Tuesday 9th November (Technology and Innovation Day) with great interest.

EQTEC’s hope for COP26 was that the EU, UK and USA in particular embrace more ambitious, more stringent targets that focus on ultimate outcomes for the environment, such as carbon efficiency and gross emissions, especially of the most hazardous pollutants. After the first week, some encouraging announcements were made particularly regarding methane emissions, finance, sustainable food and new countries declaring Net Zero targets, and in the second week, agreements focused on activism, cross-country collaboration and of course, the international Climate Pact itself. It will now be up to individual governments to set even more stringent policies and action plans to meet these ambitions.

By Lisa Artemis, Head of Marketing & Communications, EQTEC plc