Sixth Carbon Budget maps out a net zero map for the UK

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The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has presented ‘a world first’ detailed route map for a fully decarbonised nation, along with its sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037).

In its new 1,000-page report, the CCC sets out the path to that goal over the next three decades, including the first ever detailed assessment of the changes that will result – and the key milestones that must be met.

The CCC’s recommended pathway requires a 78% reduction in UK territorial emissions between 1990 and 2035, effectively bringing forward the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years.

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

According to the CCC, that investment will also be the key to the UK’s economic recovery in the next decade 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. This is thanks, not only to the falling cost of offshore wind but also a range of new low cost, low-carbon solutions in every sector.

Climate Change Committee Chairman, Lord Deben, commented: “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.”

Under the UK Climate Change Act, the UK must reach Net Zero Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050.

The Act also requires the Government to set a new Carbon Budget every five years, following the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

The Sixth Carbon Budget must be legislated by June 2021.

According to the CCC, 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. By the early 2030s all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings are low-carbon – largely electric. By 2040 all new trucks are low-carbon. UK industry shifts to using renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, or captures its carbon emissions, storing them safely under the sea.
  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. New uses for this clean electricity are found in transport, heating and industry, pushing up electricity demand by a half over the next 15 years, and doubling or even trebling demand by 2050. Low-carbon hydrogen scales-up to be almost as large, in 2050, as electricity production is today. Hydrogen is used as a shipping and transport fuel and in industry, and potentially in some buildings, as a replacement for natural gas for heating.
  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. Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20% by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.
  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. Woodland rises from 13% of UK land today to 15% by 2035 and 18% by 2050. Peatlands are widely restored and managed sustainably.

Commenting on the Carbon Budget, RenewableUK’s Head of Policy and Regulation Rebecca Williams stated: “The CCC is right to urge Government to move faster to reach net zero by taking a series of key steps which will benefit consumers by delivering cheap energy, as well as slashing carbon emissions.

“As their latest report states, low-cost offshore wind will play a major role as the backbone of our future power system with up to 140GW installed by 2050 – a fourteen-fold increase in our current capacity – and we also need a ramping up of onshore wind and innovative technologies like floating wind, tidal stream and renewable hydrogen to get there.”

The full report can be read from the CCC website.