UK cannot rely on breakthrough technologies to hit climate goals

Breaking technologies are unlikely to be operating at scale in time to deliver the UK’s climate targets, UK Fires has said.

In its Absolute Zero report, debated in the House of Lords on 6 February, the research consortium called for the UK to target an absolute zero reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, rather than net zero. This would mean not using carbon credits and including both international shipping and aviation in the UK’s carbon calculations. Furthermore, it said discussion on how the UK plans to respond to climate change must shift to using today’s technologies with incremental change, with breakthrough technologies – including carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen – unlikely to be operating at scale within thirty years.

It set out that electricity must become the UK’s only form of energy, adding that should current “impressive rates” of growth in non-emitting generation continue, “we’ll only have to cut our use of energy to 60% of today’s levels”. This would be achieved through incremental changes such as driving smaller cars and using efficient electric heat pumps.

The report warned the aviation and shipping sectors will present the biggest challenges to an all-electric future due to a lack of alternatives available, while obeying the Climate Change Act will require halting anything that causes emissions, including eating beef and lamb. It also stressed cement presents one of the most difficult problems to overcome owed to it producing emissions regardless of how it’s powered. There are no alternative options available at scale and no way of installing renewables or making energy efficient buildings without cement.

The challenges must be discussed as a society, the report said, with progress on climate change only to be achieved if the three key groups of players – government, businesses and individuals – work together.

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