Moves by the government to cut support for onshore wind and solar energy will hinder UK efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has told MPs.

Chris Stark issued his warning while being cross-examined yesterday (8 May) by the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee on the net zero report issued by the government’s statutory adviser on climate change last week.

He said: “The more onshore wind we have, the cheaper this becomes.

“Anything that makes it harder is not in line with the net zero challenge.”

And Ofgem must be more closely signed up to efforts to cut emissions, Stark said: “Price control periods don’t look out to 2050 and are not even in line with the 80 per cent target.

“This will need all key actors to think about achieving net zero and if we do that it will be perfectly possible to achieve the transformation we talk about in the report.”

He also told MPs that the existing target to increase offshore wind deployment to 30GW by 2030 is “probably just about sufficient” for the UK to be on track with delivering the CCC’s target of 75GW of this form of renewable energy by 2050.

“The more you front load building infrastructure to deliver low carbon electricity, the better,” he said, adding that rolling out more such generation would give the UK more options about how to achieve the net zero target by 2050.”

Baroness Brown, the committee’s vice chair, told the committee that the existing 80 per cent target can be changed to net zero via secondary legislation.

Stark said that there are two key points over the next six months when the government could announce its decision on whether to adopt the CCC’s recommendation of setting 2050 as the date for achieving net zero emissions.

These are June when the UK’s bid to host the 2020 UN climate change talks will be decided and in September when the global body is due to hold its next international summit on the issue.

He said: “If we don’t know by September, we will be in difficult territory, we need to know that by the end of this year at the latest in order to set sixth carbon budget”.

But Stark defended the CCC’s decision to choose 2050 as the target date for achieving the UK’s net zero goal.

“Anything prior to 2050 looks very costly,” he said, adding that any date prior to the middle of this century is “very, very ambitious”.

“This is not an easy strategy we have laid out before parliament. There are physical infrastructure questions that need to be answered over a relatively short time period. It may be possible to do it earlier: at the moment this is the earliest date we can achieve.”

He said that physical barriers to reaching net zero earlier include not being able to grow enough trees to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, while accelerating the timescale raised the risk of infrastructure having to be scrapped too early.

But existing policies to tackle emissions, outlined in the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy, are “insufficient” to enable the UK to meet the net zero goal, Stark warned.

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