top of page

Know Your Climate Talk: What is ‘Zero Carbon’?

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

The third instalment in the series ‘Know Your Climate Talk’ by Megan Tarbuck, gives a quick run through of the term ‘Zero Carbon’. What does ‘zero carbon’ really mean? Is it really achievable?


The UK government have promised to phase out coal completely by 2025 as part of their bid to achieve zero carbon by 2050.

The term zero carbon, derived from negative implications of carbon emissions (think global warming) is pretty self explanatory and simply means ‘no net carbon released’. Zero carbon can be applied to various contexts, for example zero carbon production, net zero carbon emissions, zero carbon policy, ect… Zero Carbon is also the theme of #OPW2020 (One Planet Week) in York.

‘Zero Carbon’ is a term generally used in literature or conversation on how we should be acting in order to save the planet from a climate crisis. CO2 is a well renowned harmful gas product of our societies that contributes to the rising temperature of the planet due to its contribution to the greenhouse effect. For countries and businesses to go ‘zero carbon’ would be a mammoth task, but not impossible.

As the climate crisis intensifies a zero carbon future is something we all need to push for on national and local levels. Back in May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change told the UK government it needed to immediately set a legally binding target to be zero carbon by 2050. The Guardian also quoted the Committee on Climate Change on it costing Britain’s Government 1-2% of GDP.

To become ‘zero carbon’ we require a societal shift entirely. Reducing our demand for carbon intensive industries such as fossil fuel run transport, fossil fuel exploration and the damaging meat and dairy industry. The longer we all ignore the need to become zero carbon, the more challenging zero carbon futures become and henceforth slowing the climate crisis.


Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii recorded peak CO2 levels in May as the monthly average surpassed 414 parts per million. Source: NOAA Research

So if you’re at the University of York, get involved in One Planet Week York in spring term week 6 to learn more about zero carbon practice and why it’s so important.

Missed the other articles in the Know Your Climate Talk series? Find out how a Circular Economy could secure a sustainable future or make sure you won’t be fooled by greenwashing.

About the Author: Megan Tarbuck is the Lifestyle Editor for WILD Mag, she studies Human Geography and Environment at York.

3 views0 comments
bottom of page