A new UK Climate Change report has been released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), responding to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland to reassess the UK’s long-tern emission targets. It is thought the UK can end its contribution to global warming within 30 years by setting an ambitious new target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Ten years after the Climate Change Act became law, now is the right moment to set a more ambitious goal. Achieving a ‘net-zero’ target by the middle of the century is in line with the UK’s commitment under the Paris Agreement; the pact which the UK and the rest of the world signed in 2015 to dramatically curb the polluting gases that cause climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has emphasised the vital importance of limiting further warming to as low a level as possible and the need for deep and rapid emissions reductions in order to do so.
The report’s key recommendations are:
- The CCC recommends a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
- Scotland has greater potential and capacity to remove pollution from its economy than the UK overall and should follow a net-zero date of 2045.
- Wales has slightly lower opportunities than the UK as a whole and should adopt a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.
Other key points discussed are:
- The foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development. These include: a supply of low-carbon electricity (which will need to quadruple by 2050); efficient buildings and low-carbon heating (required throughout the UK’s building stock); electric vehicles (which should be the only option from 2035 or earlier); developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen (which are a necessity not an option); stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill, phasing-out potent fluorinated gases; increasing tree planting; and measures to reduce emissions on farms. However, these policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets.
- Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible, given that most sectors of the economy will need to cut their emissions to zero by 2050. The Committee’s conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at an acceptable cost is entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy. The government must set the direction and provide urgency. The public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed. Serious plans are needed to clean up the UK’s heating systems, to deliver the infrastructure for carbon capture and storage technology and to drive transformational change in how we use our land.
- The overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable but they must be fairly distributed. Rapid cost reductions in essential technologies such as offshore wind and batteries for electric vehicles mean that a net-zero greenhouse gas target can be met at an annual cost of up to 1-2% of GDP to 2050. However, the costs of the transition must be fair and must be perceived as such by workers and energy bill payers. The Committee recommends that the Treasury reviews how the remaining costs of achieving net- zero can be managed in a fair way for consumers and businesses.
There are multiple benefits of the transition to a zero-carbon economy, the report shows. These include:
- benefits to people’s health from better air quality
- less noise thanks to quieter vehicles
- more active travel thanks to increased rates of cycling and walking
- healthier diets
- increased recreational benefits from changes to land use
In addition, the UK could receive an industrial boost as it leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted. The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”
Press release published by the CCC on 2nd May 2019
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