‘Decarbonisation’ refers to the process of reducing ‘carbon intensity’, by lowering the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main culprit, hence the term.
In essence, it involves switching to low carbon, renewable sources of energy (e.g solar, tidal, wind, etc) and not using polluting non-renewable fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil, petrol, gas, etc) or the many products that are made out of them.
Another fairly new concept associated with decarbonisation, is the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. This effectively traps GHG and stops them being released into the atmosphere and stores them where they cannot contribute to climate change. The technology can capture up to 90% of CO2 released by burning fossil. However, this does not address the real issue of our over reliance on fossil fuels and is seen as a temporary technological bandage to facilitate there continued use and not a long-term viable solution.
New technologies are being developed to convert CO2 into other usable products, which is termed 'CO2 utilisation'. This is based on a concept called the 'circular economy', which in essence changes waste products into a usable products, rather than releasing them into the atmosphere and adding to climate change.
An example of carbon utilisation is when waste CO2 is used in Algae (seaweed) farming. The algae absorb CO2 and use it with sunlight to make their own food (sugars) by photosynthesis. The algae is then dried out and used as a nutritional base in cattle feed. This converts a waste product (CO2) into a usable product (algae cattle feed) and is a great way to limit emissions.
Other new developments which actively utilises CO2 include, a new cement production process, the production of new biofuels, paints, fertilisers, health supplements and even a new toothpaste.
New products and processes are constantly being developed, Governments have been ploughing money into research to come up with novel inventions and solutions which use CO2, thus lowering emissions and contributing to net carbon zero.
How can we deliver decarbonisation?
The Strategic Development Fund (SDF) launched in April 2021, awarded funding for 18 pilot trailblazing projects to:
- Begin building local collaborations between FE Colleges, Training Providers and Employers, to create a stronger and more efficient overall delivery infrastructure and support a more co-ordinated offer across the local areas.
- Support the development of a high-value curriculum offer in support of longer-term local / national skills priorities.
In Kent, a group of Further Education Colleges (KFE) are working together with local employers from the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce in a pilot trailblazing project, focused on delivering a decarbonisation strategy for the local Agriculture, Engineering and Construction sectors.
Mid-Kent College is leading on plans to decarbonise the construction industry. The project involves the creation of a state of the art, purpose-built training facility. The delivery of newly developed green qualifications and training courses with a construction and decarbonisation focus.
The pilot involves developing a local skills strategy, involving local construction companies in order to meet their future technological needs and to provide appropriately trained and skilled workforce.
This will form the basis of a Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), which are being introduced to tackle local skills gaps and to create a modern suitably equipped workforce. Annual statutory reviews of LSIP's will be undertaken to check on progress and engagement of all key stakeholders, with the possibility of sanctions for underperformance and non-engagement.
This LSIP model is set to be rolled out across the whole country, with a local focus on driving the recovery, levelling up and in certain circumstances to drive the race to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
Decarbonisation is an important step in the sustainability journey. Formulating practical solutions that actively reduce C02 emissions is vital, although it is only part of the sustainability jigsaw.
The Governments ambitious net zero carbon target is indeed being backed with funding and reform needed to facilitate and accelerate change. The championing of Further Education and Training as the agents of change is bold and welcome. Closing the loop to ensure that employers voice and needs are met through better collaboration via regional Chambers of Commerce and all stakeholders, is even better.
Interesting, challenging, and exciting times ahead, indeed!