architecture business

Building of the week: Zero Island

Sweden has plans to be carbon zero by 2045, and fairly robust metrics and plans for achieving that. (Something Britain can learn from, and that will have to be another post.) There is a lot of experimenting going on in Sweden to test the technologies and interventions for zero carbon, and they have recently been showcased on a small island called Lidö.

In partnership with the energy company Neste, the Zero Island project aimed to get to zero carbon in just one year. It got a 78% reduction, so not quite there – but 78% Island isn’t a very catchy name.

There were a series of measures to reduce carbon emissions. Motorised transport on the island, and the ferry to it, switched to 100% biodiesel. Everything runs on green electricity, much of it from a large solar array, with efficiency measures reducing demand and heat pumps electrifying heating systems. Food and waste have been considered too, with the restaurant developing a low carbon menu.

The island runs as a holiday destination, and hopes to be able to showcase its low carbon technologies and practices to visitors. It will also host Sweden’s first zero carbon weddings.

What I find interesting about this is that a small island with a relatively defined footprint ought to be one of the easiest places to make zero carbon. That it gets to 78% isn’t a lack of application on their part, but a reflection of how hard it is to push emissions reductions that far. To claim net zero, you have to offset the rest, which is what has been done here.

This is something worth remembering in the debate about net zero by 2050. First, it’s really hard to do and we should have no illusions about that. And second, many of the governments making commitments to net zero haven’t said how much they intend to use offsets and how near to zero carbon they will actually get. That will be something to keep an eye on and call governments to account over as net zero targets become more common.

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