climate change politics

Five steps towards a carbon neutral Britain

One of the few actual announcements to come out of the government’s recent Green GB Week was a request to their Climate Change Committee (CCC) advisory group: could they look into plans for a net zero carbon economy?

Whether or not the government will take the advice when it is given is another question, but it’s a first step. And the CCC will have other work to call on, as there are several proposals for a zero carbon Britain already out there. Among them are the conveniently titled Zero Carbon Britain report, published by the Centre for Alternative Technology. The Royal Society issued a report into carbon removal strategies earlier this year showing how Britain could be carbon neutral by 2050.

The most recent contribution comes from Friends of the Earth. It notes the government’s self-congratulatory approach, and reminds them that “the measure of success in climate change is not whether the UK is doing more than others but whether it is doing enough.” The goal should be to cut emissions to net zero, which could be done as soon as 2050 “with ambitious policies, fair wind and political leadership.”

Wrestling Britain’s emissions to zero would involve lots of things, but there are five big ticket items that would get us most of the way there:

  • Phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. The government wants to do this by 2035, but we can do better than that.
  • End natural gas powered heating. This is a difficult one, since we’ve hardly started, and the government is thoroughly committed to gas and the revenue it brings in. Nevertheless, zero carbon would require a major drive to insulate homes and reduce heating needs, and then promote low carbon heating.
  • Double Britain’s forest cover. This seems like a political winner to me, as it would have multiple benefits – removing rather than reducing emissions, while creating space for nature, reducing floods and restoring blighted landscapes.
  • Accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. We’ll need at least eight times more than we generate today through renewable energy, because we need to eliminate fossil fuels and provide enough power for heating and transport too.
  • Halve food waste, which will reduce the emissions from the waste itself, but also the farming, shipping and processing. Land will be freed up for those forests.

That’s not a comprehensive list, which is why it’s five steps ‘towards’ zero carbon, but those are all things people could rally behind. You can read the full FoE report here, or their summary points here.

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