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The UK government’s official advisers on climate change, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have released a new report, which sees the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2035 reducing by 78% when compared with 1990 levels. This new target vastly surpasses the carbon budget set in 2018, accelerating the path to net zero by 15 years, which the CCC said reflected recent rapid falls in renewable energy costs.

For an annual net cost of around £10 billion from now until 2050, report says that the transition to net zero can be achieved.  This figure does not include the benefits provided by the creation of new green jobs, cleaner air and a reduction in cold, damp homes.  For example, health conditions caused or exacerbated by poor housing currently cost the NHS £1.5 billion a year.

The CCC has found that it would be cheaper for the UK to transition to electric cars than to continue with petrol and diesel ones.  In their roadmap for the future, half of all cars on UK roads would be electric by 2030, whilst up to 10,000 offshore wind turbines will be generating renewable energy in the North Sea.  The cost of offshore wind energy has dropped significantly in recent years and the CCC sees it as being the main source of the UK’s energy by 2035, with all of our energy needs being derived from renewable or nuclear sources by that date.

The CCC’s figures show that the savings arising from not having to buy oil and gas will offset some £18 billion of the estimated £50 billion a year investment needed for  low carbon energy, heating and transport in the next 30 years.  The UK is projected to generate double the electricity it does now by 2050, whilst hydrogen will be used as a fuel for some heavy industries and to heat some homes, with all domestic boilers being made hydrogen-ready, so that they can take advantage of this cleaner fuel.  

The CCC’s plan sees behaviour change bringing about around 16% of the emissions reductions, with people eating around 24% less meat by 2035, whilst it predicts that people will also opt to drive and fly less.

The news has been broadly welcomed by environmental groups, though some have expressed doubts about the gap between the ambitions of the CCC’s plans and current environmental policies.  For example, in recent days, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed £127 billion to the HS2 rail project and to the construction of new roads, both of which will increase emissions, whilst allocating just £1 billion to providing better home insulation to reduce emissions.

In its report, the CCC says “The message to the government is clear: the 2020s must be the decisive decade of progress and action on climate change.”

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