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GeoCom19 – Hitting Net Zero

Blog posted by: Catherine Wood, Spatial Data Analyst, 05 November 2019.Catherine_tny

You’ve been seeing everywhere; we are in the midst of a climate emergency. A lot of companies are subsequently beginning to reflect and wondering “What we can do to improve? How can we, as a sector, help?” This conference looked to explore these questions and provided a platform for those companies already innovating to encourage country-wide sustainability.

The Earth is warming ten times faster than ever before and so the UK has made a commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2050. Although temporal data has traditionally been used to indicate changes in climate, spatial data is increasingly being used to highlight where those changes occur. With both temporal and geospatial data being used in conjunction with one another, we are able to paint a clearer picture of our impact on the Earth.


The National Geospatial Strategy – Sir Andrew Dilnot

The National Geospatial Strategy is currently under development, and aims to promote the use of geospatial data in the relevant sectors. It could be argued that variation is why we need tangible data; we can then identify, measure and report changes. Therefore, the use of geospatial data is being greatly encouraged, with some organisations already innovating within the space.

One example is the National Underground Assets Register, which will merge the existing data on the subsurface infrastructure to produce a nation wide dataset detailing the types of assets and their depths etc. This will reduce accidents, disruption and wasted resources, all of which will help towards reducing our impact of the environment.

Another scheme applying geospatial data is COMMUNITREE. This project is collecting tree data from across the UK and has developed the app Treezilla, an open source map detailing the locations and types of trees. By creating this we can begin to understand the benefits the trees are having, and can thus plant more strategically to ensure the best environmental outcome.

The Committee on Climate Change – Dr Rebecca Heaton

Historically, the UK has been the largest emitter of CO2 and so it could be argued that we have a moral responsibility to reduce our GHG emissions more than anywhere else on the globe. To do this, the Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) was established as part of the Climate Change Act 2008.

The CCC has created a strategy to reduce the UK’s contribution to global warming. The overall target for the UK is a 100% reduction in GHGs from 1990, covering all sectors of the economy. As Wales has less opportunity for CO2 storage and relatively high agricultural emissions, their target is a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050 relative to 1990. Conversely, Scotland has greater potential for emissions removal and so are adopting a more ambitious target; aiming for net-zero emissions by 2045.


Abbreviations: CCS = carbon capture and storage. EV = electric vehicle. BECCS = bioenergy with CCS.

Image source: Committee on Climate Change analysis. ‘NetZero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming‘.

The net-zero challenge will focus on multiple pathways within all different sectors to reduce GHG emissions. Some examples include decarbonising electricity through the use of renewable energy sources, reducing waste through increased recycling, and improving infrastructure to support and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

The cost of these targets is relatively small, with many of the changes requiring no or only limited additional costs. The benefits however, will be significant. We’ll have improved quality of life, lower risks from climate change, and even industrial opportunities.

All of these pathways aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C, which although doesn’t sound like much, anything over this is predicted to have irreversible and catastrophic effects.

With this strategy, the UK are aiming to lead by example and hopefully other governments will follow, as action needs to take place now.

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