What does Net Zero mean for the Met Office and where can our world-leading science and capability help?
The UK has pledged to become Net Zero by 2050. That means that the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere need to be net neutral by that date. Any emissions that do remain after that point will need to be balanced by measures to draw down an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. This is the UK’s contribution to the ambitious global aim of limiting warming, measured since pre-industrial times, to below 1.5C when compared with pre-industrial levels. The Recent IPCC Working Group 3 assessment report highlighted that the best chance of limiting warming to below this level will require urgent, large-scale and sustained action to reduce global emissions.
Professor Jason Lowe OBE said: “This is an enormous undertaking for the UK that has to be achieved in under 30 years. In fact, the changes necessary to meet Net Zero may be some of the largest that society will have witnessed since the start of the industrial revolution – the period of history which initiated an almost two-century rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
“These are challenging times, but within the challenges lie exciting opportunities for the development of clean energy and other low-carbon technologies. And these technologies and changes to how we live and work will bring other co-benefits, such as improved air quality, better health and biodiversity gains.
“By 2050 the Met Office will be approaching its 200th anniversary, so it is fitting that as we look ahead to this milestone we should consider how our science and forecasting capability can best be used to get the nation on the path to Net Zero.”
There are at least four areas where the Met Office’s science and capability can make a contribution to the national efforts to reach Net Zero:
- Refining the estimates of carbon budgets and emissions pathways that deliver net zero using our most comprehensive earth system models, which were developed with our academic partners across the UK. This will also help us to better understand the capacity of the natural system to take up carbon in a changing climate.
- Working with the energy sector to better understand supply and demand. For example, using climate projections of future decades to provide information on the most appropriate siting of renewable energy sources to deliver the maximum benefit. In the shorter term the Met Office’s weather and seasonal forecasting capability has an important role to play in helping energy companies match the renewable supply to the rises and falls in energy demands from industries and consumers.
- Providing more information to the public to help them to make informed greener choices about their day to day lives. For example, by advising with more accuracy which days will have better weather to walk or cycle to work or to dry laundry on a washing line, rather than relying on tumble drying.
- Delivering the local scale projections of future extreme weather conditions that are needed to ensure the low carbon infrastructure we build is made resilient to the part of climate change that we can’t avoid through emission reductions.
The Met Office is also mindful of its own emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and has a policy in place to reach net zero by 2030, including through the use of clean energy and reductions in emissions from travel.
Jason Lowe added: “Climate and science is increasingly going beyond just defining the challenges of climate change and is instead focusing on how we can respond. Our climate services are aimed at helping the Government, organisation and individuals make informed decisions so that each can play a role in taking us towards a resilient net zero future.”
The Met Office also has an important task helping to monitor the progress toward net zero by looking at a range of climate observations and of greenhouse gases. Check out the current state of the climate through our climate dashboard https://climate.metoffice.cloud/