Net Zero greenhouse gases by 2050
The UK's contribution to stopping global warming
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has just released its report "Net Zero – The UK's contribution to stopping global warming" which gives a clear endorsement to the use of heat pumps for low-carbon heating.
ICAX welcomes the Net Zero report and the key recommendation that the UK should implement policies that lead to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. This replaces the earlier recommendation to achieve an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050.
The government has also welcomed the Net Zero report and aims to pass the aspiration into legislation in June 2019 to ensure that the UK emits net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
Global average temperatures have already risen by 1°C from pre-industrial levels, and the effects can be seen today across the world. To limit further warming, deep reductions in emissions are urgently needed. By aiming for and achieving net zero, the UK would remain a world leader in this global effort, and through innovation and experience will be able to help other countries reach similarly ambitious targets.
While the new target is more ambitious, the CCC concludes "that net-zero is necessary, feasible and cost-effective".
The report summarises the scientific evidence for human induced climate change, including evidence collected by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and discusses international agreements, including the UN Paris Agreement.
The 277 pages are recommended reading but, for those short on time, some quotes are included here:
- The Committee on Climate Change recommends a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. We conclude that net-zero is necessary, feasible and cost-effective.
- The new target meets fully the requirements of the Paris Agreement, including the stipulation of 'highest possible ambition', and sets the standard for the EU and other developed countries as they consider their own pledges to the global effort.
- The CCC urges the governments of the UK to consider our advice carefully and legislate for these new targets as swiftly as possible. We must now increase our ambition to tackle climate change. The science demands it; the evidence is before you; we must start at once; there is no time to lose.
- Over ten years after the Climate Change Act was passed, there is still no serious plan for decarbonising UK heating systems and no large-scale trials have begun for either heat pumps or hydrogen.
- The background for this report is one of increased awareness of climate risks and falling low-carbon technology costs.
- Climate change can only be tackled with global cooperation. Limiting warming to below 2°C would avoid a number of damaging climate risks that are expected under the current trajectory.
- Marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica or irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet could possibly be triggered by warming between 1.5°C and 2°C. Keeping warming as low as possible reduces the risk of triggering these large-scale irreversible shifts in the climate. The target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is only credible if policy to reduce emissions ramps up significantly.
- Installation of heat pumps remains at very low levels.
- Climate change can only be tackled with global cooperation.
- Climate change is already here. Human activity has already led to 1°C of global warming from pre-industrial levels which has resulted in damaging impacts on lives, infrastructure and ecosystems that are apparent today.
- The UK can stop its contribution to rising global temperature by reducing its own emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases to net-zero.
- Global sea-level has risen by about 20cm since the start of the 20th century and the oceans have increased in acidity. These ocean conditions are unprecedented in at least the last 65 million years.
- Less than 5% of energy used for heating UK homes and buildings comes from low-carbon sources.
- New homes should not be connected to the gas grid from 2025. By 2035 almost all replacement heating systems for existing homes must be low-carbon or ready for hydrogen, such that the share of low-carbon heating increases from 4.5% today to 90% in 2050.
- There is growing public concern about climate change, alongside increasing support for more ambitious climate action.
- Heat pumps are prevalent in other countries and the technology is fairly well-established.
- The costs of hydrogen depend on how it is produced (e.g. gas reforming, electrolysis, gasification) and whether it is produced in the UK or imported.
- Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is still at the technology development and demonstration phase.
- Heat pumps are an established solution in many other countries, but not yet in the UK. Establishing them as a mass-market solution will take some time, with strong progress required during the 2020s. There are particular opportunities in new-build properties, homes off the gas grid, non-residential buildings and hybrid heat pump systems retrofitted around existing gas boilers.
Surge of concern about climate change sweeps through Europe
Public concern about climate change and plastics pollution in the envirnoment follows on from the documentaries of Sir David Attenborough and the articulate statements from Greta Thunberg on the need for action now to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren.
Chris Stark, the main author of the Net Zero report, said that the revised target in the report has been made possible by changing attitudes of the public to climate change and the reduction in costs of solar and wind power and technology developments in electric batteries. However, the ambitions of the report would fail without concerted actions from government backed up by an appropriate allocation of resources.
ICAX welcomes the CCC's revised target of Net Zero greenhouse gases by 2050
ICAX welcomes the more ambitious target of Net Zero greenhouse gases by 2050 and agrees that this is essential to preserve life as we know it on this planet. There is real concern that the report is not ambitious enough and that a greater sense of urgency would have been more appropriate.
The implications are that we should move faster towards electrification of transport and the electrification of heat:
- we should switch from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles
- we should switch from using gas boilers to heat our homes to using heat transfer by employing heat pumps.
See the full report published on 2 May 2019: Net Zero – The UK's contribution to stopping global warming, which runs to 277 pages.
See article on Getting serious about Net Zero before 2050, which runs to just one page.