UK must cut emissions by 80% by 2035 to meet net-zero

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has today presented its Sixth Carbon Budget, outlining a detailed road map for the UK to achieve a fully decarbonised nation by 2050. 

The report outlines that to achieve net-zero, emissions must fall by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, a big step up from the UK’s previous goal of an 80% reduction by 2050.

To achieve this goal, the report outlines that major investment must be delivered across the country, with a large portion of this coming from the private sector. Recovery from Covid-19 also provides the UK with a unique opportunity to accelerate action on net-zero, the authors of the report highlight that the UK government must harness this opportunity.

Although there is no doubt that heavy investment will be needed to achieve these goals, the CCC finds that the cost of net-zero is now down to less than 1% of the UK’s GDP, this is largely due to the falling cost of offshore wind, but also because of a new range of low cost and low carbon technologies across all sectors.

With new climate commitments from China and soon, the US, over half of global greenhouse gas emissions will shortly be covered by net-zero targets, but the CCC has concluded that these targets will only be reached if the UK acts now.

To achieve this, the report outlines four key steps that must be taken:

  1. Accelerate take up low-carbon solutions: for example by 2030 all new cars, vans and boiler replacements must be low-carbon.
  2. Expand low carbon energy supplies: offshore wind must be the backbone of the UK energy system.
  3. Reduce demand for carbon-intensive activities by changing diets, reducing consumption and encouraging fewer flights
  4. Land and greenhouse gas removals: the UK must transform land use while maintaining the same levels of food per head produced today.

Climate Change Committee chairman, Lord Deben, said: ‘The Sixth Carbon Budget is a clear message to the world that the UK is open for low-carbon business.

‘It’s ambitious, realistic and affordable. This is the right carbon budget for the UK at the right time.

‘We deliver our recommendations to the 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.

‘As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sixth Carbon Budget is a chance to jump-start 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.’

However, other climate campaigners have criticised the budget for again falling short of what is needed to reach net-zero. Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘This is too conservative given the havoc and misery extreme weather is already causing, particularly to the poorest people in the world who have contributed least to climate breakdown.

‘Areas like energy efficiency and eco-heating are challenging but would come on in leaps and bounds with immediate and sustained investment. For example, heat pumps are a proven technology and we should be aiming to phase out the installation of new gas boilers well before 2030 and fitting approximately 10 million heat pumps by the same date. Rapid investment in training fitters and hiring new apprenticeships will get this done.

‘It’s what government does right now that will determine if we meet our carbon pollution reduction goals. And what the government is doing is ploughing £27 billion into climate-wrecking roads as well as funding damaging fossil-fuel projects overseas.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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