Sign up for NPL updates
Sign up for NPL updates

Receive regular emails from NPL to get a glimpse of our activities and see how our experts are informing and influencing scientific debate

Questions and answers

What is net zero?

Accurate measurement is key to understanding the balance between carbon emitted and carbon removed

The UK has committed to a legal requirement through an amendment to the Climate Change Act (2008), that all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are brought to ‘net zero’ by the year 2050 and 2045 in Scotland - with an interim reduction of 78% required by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. This is otherwise known as a net zero target,

The term ‘net zero’ is deliberately named as such to indicate that a balance must be met between the quantity of GHGs emitted as a result of human activity, and the offset of those emissions by removal from the atmosphere and/or by trading in carbon units. Reaching net zero does not mean that there will no longer be any GHG emissions produced, rather, in areas of the economy where reducing emissions is particularly difficult, any emissions produced must be offset by the carbon removed from the atmosphere, either naturally by forests and oceans (these are known as carbon “sinks”) or by carbon capture and storage technologies. You can read more about the measurement challenges associated with carbon capture here in NPL’s Energy Transition report.

Meeting the UK’s net zero target will require accurate detection and quantification of GHG sources and sinks in the UK. The reliability of these measurements will depend on the expertise of organisations like NPL to ensure a robust and traceable emissions inventory that is able to be accurately monitored by the newly established Office for Environmental Protection.

what is net zero


Learn more about NPL’s work in support of climate change action and our Measurement for our planet programme



You might also like

How we are helping industry transition to net zero


Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070