2 May (NucNet): The UK government must immediately set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 with a fourfold increase in renewable energy complemented by “firm low-carbon power options” such as nuclear power, its official advisers have said.
In a report published today the Committee on Climate Change says that if other countries follow the UK, there is a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100. A 1.5C rise is considered the threshold for dangerous climate change.
Meeting a zero target will be challenging, said the committee, meaning the end of petrol and diesel cars and gas boilers, the production and eating of less meat, quadrupling clean electricity generation and planting an estimated 1.5 billion trees.
It will require tens of billions of pounds of investment every year, the CCC said – about 1-2% of Britain’s GDP. But not acting would be far more costly and the changes would deliver a cleaner and healthier society as well as potentially bolstering the UK economy and jobs.
The committee noted that the UK is already meeting some of its energy and economic needs with low-carbon technologies like nuclear energy. Half of UK electricity generation in 2017 was from low-carbon sources. This low-carbon electricity generation helps lower emissions in other sectors where electricity is consumed – in buildings and industry for example.
The committee said the foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development. These include a supply of low-carbon electricity, which will need to quadruple by 2050; efficient buildings and low-carbon heating; electric vehicles, which should be the only option from 2035 or earlier; developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen; and measures to reduce emissions on farms.
“However, these policies must be urgently strengthened and must deliver tangible emissions reductions – current policy is not enough even for existing targets,” the committee said.
Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a net-zero emissions target to be credible, given that most sectors of the economy will need to cut their emissions to zero by 2050.
The committee said its conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost is “entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy”.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, said the report rightly highlights “just how far we still need to go for the UK to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”.
“In decarbonising power, it highlights that we will need more low carbon sources of electricity – confirming other academic and expert reports – with nuclear continuing to play an integral part alongside renewables,” he said.
“Nuclear has long provided the UK with clean, reliable, secure electricity, and it will be needed to help meet the increased demand from the electrification of heat and transport.”
The report is online: https://t2m.io/YsyCsMwy