UK climate plan: What do the terms mean?

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Publishedduration7 hours agoRelated Topics

  • Climate change

image copyrightReuters

The UK prime minister is set to publish his long-awaited "net zero" plan to tackle climate change. He has already backed technologies like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and small reactors. Here, we break down some of the terms we're likely to hear about in the plan.

The world is over-heating fast, thanks to emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from burning fossil fuels.

Another important human-produced heating gas is methane – mostly from farming and landfill.

Scientists warn it simply won’t be possible to get emissions of these to zero by the UK's chosen date of 2050.

So instead, the government is aiming for a target known as net zero. That means the emissions that can’t be avoided by clean technology in 2050 will either be buried using the technology of carbon capture and storage, or soaked up by plants and soils.

Here, we explain some of these clean energy technologies.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

This does what it says on the tin – a technology that employs a chemical process to capture CO2 emissions from industrial chimneys. The gas is then compressed and forced into porous underground rocks.

Two decades ago, it was touted as a climate saviour. But it's very expensive and has never really taken off.

New technologies can also take waste CO2 and turn it into useful chemicals – but demand is vastly outstripped by the supply of unwanted CO2.

Net zero vs carbon neutral

Let's take net zero first. It refers to balancing out any greenhouse gas emissions produced by industry, transport or other sources by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. This usually occurs through, for example, planting trees, which sequester carbon in the ground.

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