The world’s first detailed roadmap on how to enable a nation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 has been published by UK government advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC).
Its 1,000-page, three-part report explains how emissions reductions in the UK would come through the electrification of heat and transport, renewable energy — based around a “backbone” of at least 100GW of offshore wind; low-carbon hydrogen; a major role for carbon-negative solutions that remove CO2 from the air, and a minor role for fossil-fuel-related carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Achieving net-zero by 2050, as enshrined in UK law, will require annual investment — mainly from private investors — of about £50bn per year by 2030 (a fivefold increase on today’s figure). This spending will largely be offset by the savings subsequently made on fuel costs, meaning that less than 1% of GDP will be needed to be spent on decarbonisation annually over the next 30 years.
“The government must adopt decisive policies across all emitting parts of the economy and ensure that they join up as a cohesive whole that engages the public, supports businesses to invest in low-carbon options at low risk, and enables a just transition for the economy with a fair sharing of the costs,” said the CCC.
“If policy is not scaled up across every sector; if business is not encouraged to invest; if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge — the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050.”
The advisory body “concludes that these changes are feasible and affordable but only if they are led by decisive action from government now.”
Policies recommended by the CCC include:
• Regulation to phase out high-carbon technologies and behaviours, “supported by a rebalancing of carbon pricing to favour low-carbon options in all applications”
• Public involvement in decisions on how best to achieve a transition
• New strategies on hydrogen, industrial decarbonisation, bioenergy, aviation decarbonisation, food, trees, peatland, and the future of rail
• Decisions on business models for CCS, hydrogen, greenhouse gas removals and industrial decarbonisation
• A strategic decision on the future of the gas grid in the mid-2020s
Goals must include:
• 25TWh of low-carbon hydrogen per year by 2030 — with a recommendation that blue H2 (produced from natural gas with CCS) is acceptable in the short term before moving to green hydrogen only
• 40GW of offshore wind installed by 2030, rising to 100GW by 2050
• One million heat pumps to be installed annually by 2030, ahead of the phase out of natural gas before 2035
• The phasing out of gas boilers in homes and businesses by 2033, with all new boilers to be hydrogen-ready from 2025
• An end to unabated natural-gas use in electricity production by 2035
• CCS projects at industrial clusters by 2030
• The first commercial carbon-negative plants in operation by 2030
• Widespread EV charging infrastructure
• 25TWh of manufacturing energy being switched to electricity or low-carbon hydrogen by 2030
• All sales of cars and vans to be fully electric by 2032
• A ban on the sale of new diesel trucks and lorries by 2040
• Annual tree-planting of at least 30,000 hectares a year
• The commercial roll-out of hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia as a shipping fuel by 2030
• All cement and “ore-based” steel production to be near-zero emissions by 2040
• A 35% decrease in meat consumption between 2020 and 2050
• Zero biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2025
It is now up to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government whether to accept and enact these recommendations.
“We deliver our recommendations to Government with genuine enthusiasm, knowing that Britain’s decisive zero-carbon transition brings real benefits to our people and our businesses while making the fundamental changes necessary to protect our planet,” said CCC chairman Lord Deben.
“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, [this] is a chance to jumpstart the UK’s economic recovery. Anything less would shut us out of new economic opportunities. It would also undermine our role as president of the next UN climate talks [in Glasgow in November 2021].”
Major economies including China, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and the EU have already unveiled plans to achieve net-zero by 2050 (2060 in China), and will undoubtedly be looking closely at the CCC report.