UK net zero plan achievable and affordable, say climate advisers

28/10/2021 10:25
Sept 2019 - Oil & Gas Technology Centre to make UKCS world’s first net zero basin.jpg

The UK strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050 is achievable and affordable, according to the government’s official climate advisers. The Climate Change Committee said the plan was the most comprehensive in the G20 and strengthened the position of the UK as it prepares to preside over the Cop26 summit.

The CCC, which is independent, said the strategy was a big step forward from setting targets to planning their delivery, but implementation would be a huge task.

The strategy is “very market-led” and focused on technology, from heat pumps to electric cars to low-carbon jet fuel, the CCC said. But it said much more action was needed to protect those on low incomes from the costs of going green.

The CCC also said the strategy had “nothing to say” on reducing the amount of meat and dairy people eat or on limiting growth in flying, which made hitting the climate targets more difficult and riskier. The government published a research paper on behaviour change but then swiftly withdrew it, saying it had been put out by mistake. Boris Johnson’s foreword to the strategy said there was not a “hairshirt in sight”.

There is no specific plan for farming and land, which produces 10% of UK emissions, the CCC said. It said action was urgently needed, for example immediately ramping up woodland creation, which needs to triple to meet government targets.

“Overall, we see this as a big step forward,” said Chris Stark, the CCC chief executive. “The strategy makes big decisions: fully decarbonised electricity by 2035, phaseout of sales of fossil fuel cars by 2030 and [gas] boilers by 2035, and rapid electrification of transport, industry and heating.

“Clearly, it’s a very market-led strategy. It’s noticeable how frequently the government puts the onus on business to invest and bring down the cost to the consumer. Many have criticised low public spending in some areas, but the government seems to be taking a different route. We shall see how that market-led approach fares.”

The net zero strategy had been repeatedly delayed and was seen as an important test of the UK’s credibility as host of Cop26. The CCC’s report on the strategy concludes: “It puts forward an achievable and affordable vision that will bring net benefits to the UK. This strengthens the position of the UK presidency ahead of Cop26.”

The government’s ambition for emissions cuts in each sector are broadly similar to those recommended by the CCC, it said. However, the strategy to cut emissions from the production of oil and gas in the North Sea is less ambitious.

Ministers are more ambitious than CCC recommendations on energy efficiency in homes, but the CCC said their policies were underdeveloped. The government was heavily criticised over its botched Green Homes Grant scheme and for subsidising only 90,000 heat pump installations over three years – the target is 600,000 every year.

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