How the UK can stop contributing to climate change

Embargo 00:01 Friday 9 November 2018
Dustin Benton Dustin BentonPolicy director (on secondment until June 2021)

Easy win carbon cutting actions across the UK economy now will make reaching net zero emissions by 2050 achievable ‚Äč

In line with its Paris climate agreement commitments, the UK government recently announced that it is considering a net zero carbon emissions target for the economy.

Green Alliance[1] analysis[2] shows there are politically attractive policies available now to the government to accelerate emissions reductions over the next decade and make a net zero carbon economy achievable by 2050.

The analysis shows that a net zero by 2050 goal would require 13% faster carbon reductions annually than under the current carbon budgets trajectory. But to ensure a manageable and gentle trajectory of cuts, new policy would have to be put in place now.

Climate minister Claire Perry recently suggested the UK could wait to take action on net zero until after 2032.[3] But delaying action until then would mean imposing 72% to 120% more carbon cuts per year in the 2030s and 2040s, compared to the UK’s current pace of carbon reductions.

The analysis shows that action now in four key areas of government policy would mean a gentler trajectory of carbon reduction for the economy and make net zero achievable before 2050:
  1. Adopting ‘best practice’ resource efficiency across five industrial sectors, including construction, food and drink, and clothing;
  2. Moving the UK’s 2040 petrol and diesel ban to 2030;
  3. Upgrading all homes to EPC band C levels of efficiency by 2035; and
  4. Capturing carbon via habitat restoration, tree planting, and better soil management.
This suite of policies would also have the win-win of raising economic productivity, lowering pollution, restoring habitats and cutting waste.
Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance said:
“Ending the UK’s contribution to climate change before 2050 is achievable, but to get there easily politicians need to act now. Most of what we are proposing for the next decade, like restoring habitats or making a faster transition to electric vehicles, is already popular. There’s no reason to delay faster emissions reductions. And it would continue the UK’s proud record of international climate leadership.”

[1] Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Since 1979, it has been working with a network of influential leaders in business, NGOs and politics to stimulate new thinking and dialogue on environmental policy, and increase political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.

[3] In her formal letter requesting the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC’s) advice on the net zero target, Claire Perry specifies that the 3rd, 4th and 5th carbon budgets, which run to 2032, are out of scope of the CCC’s consideration, implying that action to meet a net zero target will take place only after then:  

Related content