The Global View

UK carbon: From 637m tonnes to 0 possible by 2030

A new roadmap from the UK’s Centre for Alternative Technology outlines the route Britain needs to take to achieve a more sustainable, zero-carbon status by the year 2030.

“Zero Carbon Britain” is presented as a “fully integrated solution to climate change,” but also aims to present a path toward energy security, economic renewal and better living.

“It is a move towards entrepreneurship, resilience, connectedness and stability,” said Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and of the Transition Network. “It offers a return to scale, a bringing home of the impacts of our actions, and a shift to a world that we can hand on to our grandchildren with relief and pride.”

The hefty 384-page “Zero Carbon Britain” draws on the input of dozens of experts from a variety of fields, including climate science, energy security, transport, land use and agriculture, renewable energy, microgrids, policy, economics and employment.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Widespread and “whole-house” building refurbishment to bring the carbon emissions associated with buildings as low as possible while maintaining occupant comfort;
  • Lighter-weight cars, fully electrified car and train transport and car pricing schemes such as pay-per-mile and pay-as-you-drive insurance;
  • More UK-based food production and fewer food imports, limited to 15 per cent from the EU and another 7.5 per cent from the tropics;
  • Protection of peat-lands and better management of woodlands to preserve their functions as carbon reservoirs;
  • Shifting some agriculture from livestock production to lower-emission plant cultivation;
  • More non-productive food land allocated for growing biomass and carbon sequestration; and
  • Increased use of offshore wind resources, microgrids and distributed energy generation.

All the strategies outlined — combined with use of biomass crops, biochar and other methods for sequestering carbon — could bring the UK’s emissions down from 637 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent in 2007 to zero by 2030, the report’s authors say.

“As historically the first high-carbon economy to have developed, and today being a significant net importer of carbon-intensive goods, the UK has a particular responsibility to take political and practical leadership in the international process of decarbonisation,” said Sir John Houghton, former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a contributor to the “Zero Carbon Britain” report. “In order to effectively eliminate carbon emissions from British industry, homes, power generation, and transport systems, the report seeks to ‘power down’ high-carbon living by reducing energy demand, so as to facilitate a transfer to fossil-free supply. Importantly, the carbon reduction benefits are placed in the context of wider benefits of ‘regime change,’ including avoiding the spectre of ever more expensive and scarce oil, the opportunities for ‘green jobs’ and the creation of a more equitable society.”

4 thoughts on “UK carbon: From 637m tonnes to 0 possible by 2030”

  1. We issue in the new energy age:Solar, Wave, Wind, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, Nuclear, as the Cheap oil Era ends and oil prices escalate almost exponentially over the next few decades. Watch for greater interest in space-age super insulations, nuclear/electric sourced electric bullet trains as China has already developed, rechargeable electric cars,bikes trikes, warmer clothing, electric blankets, bio-gassing of sewage, offal,communal living, more bodies packed into smaller dwellings for heat’s sake, less prepared foods, more home grown foods, chickens in the suburbs, with pigs too!
    We will hunker down and get on in our new low energy at high cost environment. Canada with its Tar Sands will be the “Place to Be” – the new land of plenty, as they retail the tar to the Americans for fresh lettuce and good beef! All is well with the world! we have no fuel for war, and even Americas arsenal runs on foreign fuel oil today! Peace to the world now that oil prices have grounded the great American hawks of war!

  2. Bastian Fischer

    The two vital “steps” overlooked by the report are the need to roll-out smart meters and the smart grid on a national scale. These two technologies are vital for any country wanting to reduce carbon use. Why? Because smart grids allow utilities, one of the biggest contributors of CO2 emissions, to manage their distribution grids more efficiently, which means less power needs to be generated, creating fewer emissions. Smart meters, on the other hand, help consumers think more wisely when it comes to their personal energy use, as it informs them of how much energy is being used and when the best times to use it are (so they can adjust their energy usage accordingly).

    Furthermore, the report states that the move to electric vehicles (EVs) will play a pivotal role in the UK’s “zero-carbon” future. However, there is no mention of the excessive pressure EVs will place on energy grids, as large volumes of electricity will need to be directed to charging points, which in turn must handle fluctuating demand at peak times. This is where smart grids come into play… by having a smart grid infrastructure; utilities can meet the demands of EVs intelligently. A smart grid is critical to meeting the electricity requirements of EVs, as it will ensure the successful deployment by providing a reliable foundation for the data handling required to record and manage electricity distribution – from recording and assessing energy usage, to analysing data and sharing information with consumers (via green billing for instance).

    So yes, a zero carbon future is a definite possibility for the UK and one we look forward to seeing in 20 years time. But, as energy conscious individuals and businesses, we must think more widely than the steps outlined by the Centre of Alternative Energy’s report, by taking into consideration the benefits delivered by alternative, “smart” technologies, which will help make a carbon free future an even greater possibility.

  3. Agreed. Enough with these vague “we must achieve X by this date.” If your going to give recommendations, say in detail how people can achieve this. At least that would be a start.

  4. I was hoping for more. There’s nothing new or interesting in this report. Lots of wishful thinking; crazy assumptions; the usual recommendations.

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