How can we change industry practices to achieve net zero?

If the UK follows current climate policies, greenhouse gas emissions will fall short of the 2050 net zero target. Experts at The University of Manchester are demonstrating how strategies to reduce the demand for materials and products, without jeopardising people’s quality of life, needs to form a key part of the climate solution.

Currently, UK climate policies focus largely on supply-side measures, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. However, demand for products and materials is driving emissions at a higher rate than these measures are able to reduce them.

Research by Dr Kate Scott, Presidential Fellow in the Environment at The University of Manchester, in partnership with colleagues at the University of Leeds has shown that emissions savings from material productivity measures, such as changing the manufacturing material and increasing second-hand markets, would achieve emissions savings comparable to those in the current UK climate policy package. If implemented across industry practices, recommendations from the research would make a major contribution to achieving net zero emissions – both in the UK and globally.

Key facts

  • Heating homes is the single biggest national source of CO2
  • Thermocill could lead to a reduction of around 150kg CO2 emission for a 3-bed semi
  • The device could deliver an estimated energy saving of 8% - equivalent to £93 saving on annual fuel bills for a 3-bed semi
  • Thermocill will be made 100% from recycled nylon

Developing the path

These recommendations have been hugely influential in developing a series of new net zero emissions pathways for the UK.

The findings have been presented to the UK government through the Committee on Climate Change, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has adopted many of the principles in its Resources and Waste Strategy. The UK's Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy is also using the team's analysis to demonstrate how resource efficiency can help to decarbonise the industrial sector.

Measuring, tracing, calculating

Using a global trade model, Dr Scott and colleagues measured the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions it takes to manufacture, assemble, transport and sell products through large international supply chains. This provides a consumption perspective of industry emissions.

The team also ran scenarios to calculate the emissions that could be saved if less, or alternative, materials are used to manufacture products, and if changes are made to industry and consumer behaviours, such as leasing products and buying more second-hand goods.

"Thermocill is an innovative concept based on the fundamentals of fluid mechanics and heat transfer and our results have demonstrated the effectiveness of this device in changing the flow in the room and the thermal comfort".

Dr Amir Keshmiri / Project Lead

Clearing the way

Dr Scott is continuing to analyse industry progress towards net zero, to identify further opportunities to influence policy. She is investigating the trade-offs between a supply or demand-side approach to reducing emissions and studying how different consumption levels can affect the scale of emissions reduction on supply. Most recently, Dr Scott has argued the need for a strategy to be put in place to cut energy use across the UK economy through her work in the new report by The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS).