Infinitas Design

Renewable Energy System Design & Development


Absolute Zero Report

Posted on 20 March 2020


UK demand for energy-intensive materials is growing, driving increased emissions in the UK and abroad. UK FIRES is a research programme sponsored by the UK Government, aiming to support a 20% cut in the UK’s true emissions by 2050 by placing Resource Eciency at the heart of the UK’s Future Industrial Strategy.

Industry is the most challenging sector for climate mitigation – it’s energy efficient and there are no substitutes available at scale for the energy-intensive bulk materials – steel, cement, plastic, paper and aluminium. UK FIRES is, therefore, working towards an industrial renaissance in the UK, with high-value climate-safe UK businesses delivering goods and services compatible with the UK’s legal commitment to zero emissions and with much less new material production.

Why we’ve written this report now

The authors of this report are funded by the UK government to support businesses and governments (national and regional) to develop a future Industrial Strategy that’s compatible with Zero Emissions. To do that, we have to anticipate how we’ll make future goods and buildings, and also think about what performance we want from them.

What we mean by “Absolute Zero”

The UK’s Climate Change Act contains two “escape” words: it discusses “net” emissions and targets on those that occur on our “territory.” However, in reality, apart from planting more trees, we don’t have any short-term options to remove emissions from the atmosphere, and even a massive expansion in forestry would have only a small effect compared to today’s emissions. Furthermore, shutting factories in the UK doesn’t make any change to global emissions, and may make them worse if we import goods from countries with less efficient processes.

Public concern about the Climate is too well informed to be side-lined by political trickery on definitions. In writing this report, we have therefore assumed that: the target of zero emissions is absolute – there are no negative emissions options or meaningful “carbon offsets.” Absolute Zero means zero emissions; the UK is responsible for all emissions caused by its purchasing, including imported goods, international flights and shipping.

Invitation to participate

This report presents our best estimate of Absolute Zero, based on publicly reported data and peer-reviewed evidence. Undoubtedly there are more opportunities that we don’t know of, and if this report proves useful, there will be other aspects of the journey to Absolute Zero that we can help to inform. We welcome contributions and comment and will provide an edited summary of any discussion on If there is demand, we will update and re-issue the report in response.

Please contact us via and if you found this report useful, please share it through your networks.


Absolute Zero Report Delivering the UK’s climate change commitment with incremental changes to today’s technologies Energy Emissions 2050


Guide to the report

Absolute Zero Report



Authors: Allwood, J.M.a, Dunant, C.F.a, Lupton, R.C.b, Cleaver, C.J.a, Serrenho, A.C.H.a, Azevedo, J.M.C.a, Horton, P.M.a, Clare, C.c, Low, H.e, Horrocks, I.e, Murray, J. c, Lin, J.f, Cullen, J.M.a, Ward, M. d, Salamati, M.d, Felin, T.e, Ibell, T. b, Zhou, W.f, Hawkins, Wb.

University of Cambridge

University of Bath

University of Nottingham

University of Strathclyde

University of Oxford

Imperial College.


DOI: 10.17863/CAM.46075

Copyright ©2019 University of Cambridge

First published 29th November 2019

Contact details: UK FIRES is led by Professor Julian M Allwood FREng who can be contacted via

We welcome comment or contributions to future editions of “Absolute Zero”.

The authors have asserted their rights under the Copyright, Designs And Patents Act 1988 to be identified
as authors of this work.