Accelerating moves to decarbonise the economy, including speeding up the phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles, will cut the cost of eradicating net emissions by 2050.
That is the recommendation of a new report, issued last week by the Green Alliance umbrella body of environmental pressure groups.
In line with its 2015 Paris climate agreement commitments, the UK government recently announced that it is considering a net zero emissions target.
It has asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to advise on options for the date by which this net zero emissions goal can be achieved.
Ministers have also requested advice on whether the UK must review its 2050 target of cutting emissions by at least 80% relative to 1990 levels in order to meet its contribution to the Paris Agreement international climate targets.
The Government has stipulated that the CCC should only look at the five-year carbon budget periods after 2032.
But, according to the Green Alliance report, waiting until this date to take action on eradicating emissions will require a much faster and costlier annual rate of carbon reductions in the 2030s and 2040s.
It shows that reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 would require a 70 to 120% increase in efforts to reduce carbon in the 2030s and 2040s.
But it says that lowering emissions using policies that are already implementable would mean the 2050 target is “achievable”.
The analysis shows that action now in four key areas of government policy would mean a gentler trajectory of carbon reduction for the economy
- Adopting “best practice” resource efficiency across five industrial sectors, including construction, food and drink, and clothing
- Moving the UK’s 2040 petrol and diesel ban to 2030
- Upgrading all homes to EPC band C levels of efficiency by 2035
- Capturing carbon via habitat restoration, tree planting, and better soil management
It says that bringing forward the 2040 petrol and diesel ban forward to 2030 alone would reduce by at least the two thirds the projected emissions overshoot in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets covering the decade up to 2032.
The combined impact of the report’s four recommendations are “almost enough” to get the UK on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 but “significantly higher” savings are required to achieve the same goal by 2045.
Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance said:“Ending the UK’s contribution to climate change before 2050 is achievable, but to get there easily politicians need to act now.
“Most of what we are proposing for the next decade, like restoring habitats or making a faster transition to electric vehicles, is already popular. There’s no reason to delay faster emissions reductions. And it would continue the UK’s proud record of international climate leadership.”