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Imagining a net zero future

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

At the start of a new year, hopes are always high, with thoughts of new beginnings, new adventures and the promise of better things to come. But of course, it doesn’t take long to realise that things don’t just suddenly happen overnight. If we truly want to see major changes for the better in our lives, we need to plan for them, put in place the preparations that lead to them being realised and of course avoid giving up at the first hurdle.

Tackling climate change is no different and like many of those New Year resolutions it will need commitment and the support of those around us if we are to be successful in addressing it. But what would a future post-climate change Harrogate District actually look like?

Many of us are probably now familiar with the term ‘net zero’, which refers to the balance that we need to strike between the levels of carbon we emit and the levels of carbon we are able to capture from the atmosphere. How much carbon we are able to capture depends on a number of complex factors, not least the state of the natural world around us. Increasing woodland cover, reversing biodiversity loss and putting effort and investment into nature recovery is vital in helping to achieve net zero. The good news is that these changes will also mean a better, healthier quality of life for us all. Nature recovery, like afforestation, peatland restoration and marine ecosystem restoration, will help with flood mitigation and adaption; improve air, soil and water quality and create habitats for wildlife. In urban spaces increasing woodland cover, hedges and green spaces has been shown to reduce the amount of heat that builds-up in pavements, roads and buildings, whilst also boosting health and wellbeing from greater human connection with nature.

So, restoring nature is essential, helping to truly give us a green and pleasant land but it must be combined with the rapid transition away from the use of fossil fuels. Carbon capture or offsetting cannot be used as an excuse to continue consuming, driving, eating, flying, heating and powering in the same way we do today. That will mean taking on challenges, accepting change and adopting new practices but without a vision of where we want to be, will surely lead to many false moves and wasted time and money. We must all plan for a future beyond the climate crisis.

Harrogate Borough Council are in the process of revising their Carbon Reduction Strategy. This provides a great opportunity to put in place not just random acts that might ‘seem right’ but a well-considered roadmap of timely actions that will allow us to reach a clearly defined destination, where the economic, cultural and social needs of the district’s residents are met.

The same is true for each one of us, we must have in mind a clear destination and start on an appropriate journey that allows us to reach it. So, at the start of this new year, you might want consider what your net zero lifestyle might look like, not in the next twelve months but by 2030, and then put in place the net zero resolutions to ensure you get there.


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