The UK needs to cut its emissions by 78% below 1990 levels over the next 15 years, according to the latest advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC). For the first time, the government’s climate advisers have proposed a legally binding “carbon budget” that is in line with the national target of “net-zero” emissions by 2050, which was first set last year.
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.
Wind power is slated to be the main contributor, with the capacity of 40 gigawatts targeted by 2030. However, by 2050, the increase in energy demand could see this rise as high as 125 gigawatts. In addition, the report calls for the government to press ahead with developing new-build nuclear capacity. It says ministers should aim to replace existing capacity by 2035, totalling 10 gigawatts in total. Finally, the carbon budget says that the UK will require a widespread change to its use of rural land by 2035, with hundreds of thousands of hectares required for planting trees to capture carbon dioxide and provide land for biofuel production.
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.