Report: Cost of net-zero ‘cheaper than previously thought’

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A new report has revealed that achieving net-zero targets may be cheaper than previously thought, as it outlines a detailed route map for a fully decarbonised nation

In its new landmark 1,000-page report, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) sets out the path to net-zero over the next three decades.

The report includes the first-ever detailed assessment of the changes that will result – and the key milestones that must be met.

The Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) charts the decisive move to zero carbon for the UK.

The CCC reveals that polluting emissions must fall by almost 80% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels – a big step-up in ambition.

To deliver this, a major investment programme across the country must be delivered, in large measure by the private sector.

In many areas, this gives people real savings, as the nation uses fewer resources and adopts cleaner, more-efficient technologies, like electric cars, to replace their fossil-fuelled predecessors.

The CCC finds that these savings substantially reduce the cost of net-zero compared with previous assessments: now down to less than 1% of GDP throughout the next 30 years.

‘Ambitious, realistic and affordable’

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 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.”

2020s must be the decisive decade of progress

The CCC’s message to Government is clear: the 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action on climate change.

By the early 2030s, every new car and van, and every replacement boiler must be zero-carbon; by 2035, all UK electricity production will be zero carbon.

Modern low-carbon industries will grow; producing hydrogen; capturing carbon; creating new woodlands; renovating and decarbonising the UK’s 28 million homes.

The CCC concludes that these changes are feasible and affordable but only if they are led by decisive action from Government now.

The CCC suggest that if its recommendations are adopted by ministers next year, the Sixth Carbon Budget will position the UK as a true global climate leader, as it prepares to host heads of state for the next major climate summit in Glasgow.

The Sixth Carbon Budget can be met through four key steps:

  1. Take up of low-carbon solutions – People and businesses will choose to adopt low-carbon solutions, as high carbon options are progressively phased out.
  2. Expansion of low-carbon energy supplies – UK electricity production is zero carbon by 2035. Offshore wind becomes the backbone of the whole UK energy system, growing from the Prime Minister’s promised 40GW in 2030 to 100GW or more by 2050.
  3. Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities – The UK wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods. Buildings lose less energy through a national programme to improve insulation across the UK.
  4. Land and greenhouse gas removals – There is a transformation in agriculture and the use of farmland while maintaining the same levels of food per head produced today. By 2035, 460,000 hectares of new mixed woodland are planted to remove CO2 and deliver wider environmental benefits. 260,000 hectares of farmland shifts to producing energy crops.

‘Be prepared for what happens if we can’t meet that ambition’

Stewart Clements, director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, said: “We welcome the CCC’s ambition to have 5.5 million heat pumps installed by 2030 and also the recognition of hydrogen and the real potential it offers to decarbonise heat, affordably.

“HHIC represents the whole heating sector and we will be working with our members to understand the implications of this report and how we can assist BEIS with the transition.

“As an industry we are committed to helping and supporting the UK reach our carbon reduction targets.

“However, we must proceed with caution. Having ambition is positive but we have to be prepared for what happens if we can’t meet that ambition. The accelerated timelines will be very difficult to achieve in practice. BEIS need to urgently engage with the heating industry to fully understand what we can start to deliver, and what we will need to put into place.

“For example more work is going to be needed on reskilling the workforce and developing supply chains. Red tape will need to be reduced to allow greater participation in government support schemes like the RHI and Green Homes Grant.

“If a collaborative approach is adopted the heating industry is confident it can reduce emissions to meet our net-zero goals.”

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