CCC releases detailed plan to reach UK net zero target

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent body that advises the UK Government on climate policy, has released its advice on how the UK can reach its short- and long-term targets and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The Climate Change Act of 2008 requires the UK to set a new carbon budget every five years based on recommendations from the CCC. The sixth carbon budget covers 2033–2037 and is the first to take into account the target of net zero emissions by 2050. It outlines changes that must take place in every sector over the next 30 years. The Government is required to respond to the CCC report by June 2021.

The key recommendation from the report is reducing emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035. The UK Government has recently announced its new pledge under the Paris Agreement which commits to a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030.

The CCC said that the sixth carbon budget can be met through four key steps: take-up of low carbon solutions, expansion of low-carbon energy supplies, reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities, and land management for greenhouse gas removal.

Its estimate on the cost of reaching net zero is less than 1% of GDP, which has fallen from its 2019 estimate of a cost of 1–2% of GDP. This is due to the falling costs of renewable energy as well as new low-cost decarbonisation solutions in every sector.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC, said: “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.”

“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.”

The CCC recommended that fossil fuel power generation should be phased out by 2035, with fossil fuels for other uses being mostly phased out by 2050. Oil and gas that still needs to be used by 2050 will need to be offset through methods such as CCS. It also said that ore-based steel production will need to be at near-zero emissions by 2035, and cement production by 2040.

It said that all of the changes needed to reach net zero are feasible and affordable but require decisive action from the Government now. It also said that it has taken a just transition into account in the report by detailing how the costs and benefits of net zero can be shared in a more balanced way, and how different business models and re-training will be needed in sectors such as oil and gas.

Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK, recognised that the oil and gas industry will be very different in the future and that many companies and supply chains are already adapting to pursue the new energy opportunities

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas trade association (UKOOG), said: “We are encouraged to see a continued and recognised role for oil and gas throughout the energy transition in today's sixth carbon budget recommendation. We agree with the Committee's assessment that ‘UK industries should face a level playing field under the UK's ambitious targets’; it is simply not acceptable for carbon intensive imports to flood the UK whilst our domestic industry faces ever greater regulatory burdens and costs.”

Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management, University of Edinburgh, commented on the report: “You can argue all you like about whether the UK has truly ‘world-leading’ targets on climate change, but you can’t deny it has world-leading climate change advice. This weighty report maps out the path to net zero for the whole country; every sector of the economy is scrutinised, every lever for action is unearthed. Crucially, it articulates the rapid transition to net zero as the (electric) engine room of a green recovery, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping to address the deep inequalities in our society that Covid-19 has deepened still further. As a dark year draws to a close this is enlightenment at the end of the tunnel.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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