Phasing out greenhouse gas emissions
The UK’s climate advisors have urged the government to lead the world on climate change and pledge to end the country’s contribution to global warming by 2050. This would mean transforming lifestyles, homes and every sector of the UK economy to end greenhouse gas production – but the Committee on Climate Change says it can be done.
It wants the pledge to include pollution from aviation and shipping, often excluded from carbon reduction targets. The government is considering the committee’s recommendation, with business secretary Greg Clark describing it as “a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.”
The UK already has a target of an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, but in its 600-page report, the committee said the falling costs of offshore windfarms, batteries and other technologies meant total elimination could be achieved at the same cost, which is 1 to 2 per cent of GDP.
Some climate change protesters, such as the group Extinction Rebellion, have called for a target of 2025, but the committee was clear that this was not credible. It adhered instead to a 2050 deadline, citing it as realistic given the known technologies available.
A defined plan
In its introduction to the report, the committee warned that the in order to achieve the goal, clear and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further must be introduced quickly. It noted that current policies aren’t sufficient and that delivery on targets should be prioritised.
To stop producing greenhouse gases, the UK would need to change the way it powers almost everything.
Electricity will need to be decarbonised, and low-carbon power production will have to quadruple to ensure we still have electricity, heating and transport. Boilers and heating systems, the great majority of which are powered by fossil fuels at the moment, will be one of the most expensive things to switch to green alternatives, at a cost of £15 billion a year according to the New Scientist. Buildings will require substantial efficiency improvements too, while it’s recommended that all new cars should be electric from 2030.
Dave Reay, chair in carbon management and education at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, said: “If the meticulous expert advice here is heeded it will deliver a revolution in every facet of our lives, from how we power our homes and travel to work, to the food we buy and the holidays we take.”
The report recommends a net-zero date of 2045 for Scotland, which is better placed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but only a 95 per cent target for Wales, where it will be harder.
The Confederation of British Industry called on the government to adopt the target, and said the report marked “a new dawn for climate change action in the UK.”
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