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UK must go on “fossil fuel diet” to meet CO2 targets

The UK must cut greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020 to tackle climate change and meet longer-term goals of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, the government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned.

More importantly the CCC’s report, Building a Low-Carbon Economy, says the aggressive emissions targets can be achieved at a cost of less than one per cent of GDP in 2020 without harming the UK economy.

The CCC says the UK governemnt must commit unilaterally to reduce CO2 emissions in the UK by at least 21 per cent on 2005 levels and that this should be increased to 31 per cent once a global deal to reduce emissions is achieved.

Recommendations on how the UK can move towards a low-carbon economy include:

  • Moving away from using fossil fuels towards using cleaner forms of generating electricity and heat including greater use of renewables (wind power, biomass heat and heat pumps), nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS);
  • Using energy more efficiently in homes and office buildings and in industry, through better insulation, use of more energy efficient appliances and through reducing waste by turning lights off, shutting down computers and using air conditioning less;
  • Reducing transport emissions, developing electric cars, improving the carbon efficiency of engines, developing use of sustainable bio-fuels, better journey planning and more use of public transport;
  • Purchasing offset credits to meet the global 31 per cent target – but not to meet the 21 per cent target.

Chair of the CCC Lord Turner said:

“The budgets we have proposed are achievable given available and developing technologies, and provided the policies in place are implemented and where necessary reinforced. The reductions required can be achieved at a very low cost to our economy: the cost of not achieving the reductions, at national and global level, will be far greater.”

Tom Delay, CEO of the Carbon Trust, summed up the CCC report saying it sets a “fossil fuel diet” for the UK economy that should put a halt to the building of new coal power stations:

“At the centre of the CCC strategy is an aggressive strategy to decarbonise our electricity sector using renewable energy and nuclear energy. If these budgets are accepted it would make it difficult to justify building new coal power stations until carbon capture and storage is commercially available. The case for massive investment in low carbon energy technology acceleration could not be stronger.”

The full 511-page CCC report is available here.

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