Is it possible to achieve zero carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses by 2050?
Time will tell…
The Committee on Climate Change(CCC) recently issued its widely publicised report, ‘Net Zero – the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”, recommending a new emissions target of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
The report responds to a request from the governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. The CCC’s new emissions scenarios draw on new research projects, three expert advisory groups, and reviews of the work of the IPCC and others.
Whilst the CCC have no legislative or policy-making powers, they will be influential on government policies.
Read the report here.
Housing and zero emissions…
The Government have said that from 2025 all new builds will not be connected to the gas grid. The CCC has said that by 2035 almost all replacement heating systems for existing homes must be low-carbon or ready for hydrogen. That will be the main consideration for housebuilders and their supply chains. Low-cost heating systems will be in high demand.
Decarbonisation of homes…
The CCC report sets out various scenarios including the decarbonisation of some of the remaining 20% of homes not decarbonised in the central scenario. It said these were mainly homes on the gas grid with limited space and homes that were more difficult to retrofit. However, 10% of homes still did not have low carbon heating under this new scenario. This might prove to be a conservative assumption, depending on progress with decarbonisation of heat.
In the CCC report, there was a lot of uncertainty about which heat decarbonisation pathway(s) would be the most technically, economically and socially feasible but the further ambition scenario made it more likely that hydrogen would play a role– for example in homes with space constraints and decarbonise the demand for peak heating. Technically speaking, the further ambition scenario is feasible but heat decarbonisation, in particular, had a long way to go and required policy action to demonstrate, test and scale up the supply and demand side technologies required.
An advisory group…
The CCC created a net zero advisory group to advise how the UK could reduce emissions to net-zero. The advisory group noted that CCC’s analysis suggested that there should be a reduction in UK GHG emissions of more than 95% by 2050. Based on this analysis and the need to maintain UK leadership, the advisory group’s view was that a net zero GHG target should be set for 2050.
It will all come at a cost…
The report said that action was needed to manage the transition for communities that could be exposed to high economic and social costs because of the need to phase out some industries or infrastructures.
Business Green said, “To transition homes and industry to use low-carbon gas, Government needs to provide a long-term vision and joined-up policy framework for heat, industry and transport. But more than anything, we must now continue moving forward; as the Committee makes clear, adopting a ‘net zero’ target means an action is needed urgently. Energy network investment and innovation incentives for decarbonisation, set by the energy regulator Ofgem, should be more ambitious over the next decade, and should work with other government initiatives to support large-scale trials on options for decarbonising gas.”
How will the land be affected?
The rate of which CO2 would be removed from the atmosphere was predicted at a rate of 30,000 hectares per year, similar to the rate of afforestation achieved in the 1980s. The main challenge was whether the land for this would be available, which partly depended on improvements in agricultural productivity and dietary trends.
Other considerations to achieve the zero emission’s goal would be longer policy timetables with a consistent and stable framework and power supplies using a flexible gas plant with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for ‘mid-merit’ power and burning hydrogen to cover peak demand. This depended on CCS being fully commercialised and hydrogen being produced using zero-carbon energy sources. The amount of flexible generation required would depend on the extent of other sources of flexibility which might be cheaper, including demand-side response, storage and interconnectors.
We recently saw the passionate demonstrations in London about the environment, roads were closed and arrests were made. Whether you agree or not with the protestor’s methods, one thing is clear – there needs to be a behavioural change on our part too. Our approach to saving the environment is really important and steps can be taken in your home or with the cars you drive.
You can use the government’s ‘Pathways’ analysis calculator for 2050 to give you key insights into how you can make a difference. Find out about the analysis calculator.
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