Voices from across the industry and the political sphere have welcomed the conclusions made by the government’s climate change watchdog concerning delivering net zero emissions by 2050.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its latest report today (2 May).
Government and Parliament
Secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, said: “Few subjects unite people across generations and borders like climate change and I share the passion of those wanting to halt its catastrophic effects.
“One of our proudest achievements as a country is our position as a world-leader in tackling this global challenge, being the first country to raise the issue on the international stage, introduce long-term legally-binding climate reduction targets and cutting emissions further than all other G20 countries.
“Today’s report recognises the work we’ve done to lay the foundations to build a net zero economy, from generating record levels of low carbon electricity to our ambitious plans to transition to electric vehicles.
“To continue the UK’s global leadership we asked the CCC to advise the government on how and when we could achieve net zero.
“This report now sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.”
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, John Armitt, said: “Today’s report highlights the importance of urgent, concerted action to protect the UK’s economy and environment from the impacts of climate change.
“Future generations won’t forgive us if we don’t act together and with a sharp focus.
“But to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we must put in place the infrastructure we need to change how we travel and how we power and heat our homes and businesses.
“The key step is to ensure a rich mix of renewable energy sources. That’s why in the UK’s first national infrastructure assessment we called for at least 50 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, along with measures to speed up the delivery of lower carbon heating for our homes and the adoption of electric vehicles.
“It is essential that the government’s national infrastructure strategy, expected this autumn, sets out a robust and effective plan for funding and delivering these changes.”
David Puttnam, a peer who helped guide the Climate Change Act through parliament, said: “At a time of seemingly intractable political division, it is worth remembering that then, as now, our politicians are united across the political divide on the issue of climate change, with nearly 200 members of the Commons already calling for a net zero target to be put into law.
“Long may this continue; for, although issues like Brexit will pass, the awesome challenge of addressing climate change will be one that faces us and future generations for decades to come.
“Setting a net zero target in law is merely the next step on this long road: we should take it, and quickly.”
Michael Howard, former leader of the Conservative party and now a peer, said: “Britain has a history of action on climate change of which it can be proud. From the Rio earth summit to the Climate Change Act, we have always been a leader on facing this challenge.
“Now the science is clear that we must go further, and adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050, if not earlier. We must not shirk from this challenge, nor should we be afraid of it.
“Pragmatic policies introduced by past governments have shown, as in the case with offshore wind, that costs can quickly be driven down and thriving new industries grown.”
Industry trade bodies have also welcomed the report.
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, said: “We back the CCC’s advice that to move beyond an 80 per cent target and deliver net zero emissions by 2050, low-carbon hydrogen will be an absolute necessity within our energy system.
“We echo their calls for carbon, capture, usage and technology to be deployed at scale and quickly, as it is essential to the development of a hydrogen economy. Energy networks will be at the heart of this transition.
“There will be no silver bullet to reaching net zero, with energy networks leading innovation needed across major sectors of the economy including heating, power and transportation.
“Given the vital role that gas networks have to play in decarbonising heat, we believe the public should be allowed to benefit from new technologies such as smart hybrid heating systems and that new homes should continue to be connected to the gas grid.”
Lawrence Slade, Energy UK’s chief executive, said: “We firmly support the recommendations made by the CCC today, for the UK to reach a net-zero economy by 2050.
“Our sector has already significantly reduced its emissions (56 per cent) since the Climate Change Act passed in 2008 and we believe that with sufficient funding and policy frameworks supporting low carbon technologies, the power sector could reach net-zero emissions before that date.”
Tim Rotheray, director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, said: “UK policy making now needs to match the ambitions of the CCC’s rallying call for decarbonisation.
“Recent progress needs to be accelerated to achieve this ambition. The structural change required in businesses, embedding carbon and environment into the heart of business planning, is just as vital in government.
“Cutting emissions will impact everyone’s lives. This needs public support and that can only be achieved if customers see the benefits.
“That is why zero carbon policies must be at the heart of every single government department.”
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The Committee on Climate Change’s report rightly highlights just how far we still need to go for the UK to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“In decarbonising power, it highlights that we will need more low carbon sources of electricity – confirming other academic and expert reports – with nuclear continuing to play an integral part alongside renewables.
“Nuclear has long provided the UK with clean, reliable, secure electricity, and it will be needed to help meet the increased demand from the electrification of heat and transport.
“Just as this report is a timely wake up call to government and society, it is also an important reminder that reducing our reliance on high emission fuels to generate power is the priority.
“Clean electricity sources need to work together, not pit themselves against each other, if we are to meet 2050 ambitions.”
Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “This report blazes a trail for the UK to assert itself as a leader in socially responsible new industries and the government should grab it with both hands.
“We strongly support the view of the committee that the solution to net zero greenhouse gasses by 2050 lies in the mass deployment of renewable technologies supported by robust, long-term and investible policies.
“Since the 80 per cent reduction target was set, renewables have continuously surpassed expectations technically and financially and this is reflected in the CCC’s recommendations.
“Governmental support schemes such as the feed-in tariff have helped technologies such as solar PV and wind become inexpensive and straightforward to build.
“A policy gap, however, now exists to bring forward new power generation technologies in the 2020s.
“Direction is required from government in relation to heat and carbon capture and storage.
“In transport, more can be done to decarbonise the fuel mix, facilitate EV deployment, and ensure strategic charging infrastructure is delivered.
“Gas and electricity networks also need to be fully on board with this transition and their regulated profit base should reflect progress on decarbonisation.
“We hope that the response from government in the coming months fully embraces the ambition and the opportunity presented today.“
Renewable energy companies
Mark Hollands, energy strategy director at renewable energy developer BSR Energy, said: “We praise the UK government for potentially becoming the first developed economy to enshrine a zero-carbon target in law, but achieving this will require more aggressive thinking and actions.
“There are several key changes the government can drive through to aid the roll-out of a new onshore renewable generation and storage.
“The headline change necessary is the introduction of a carbon tax. This will allow the UK to meet its obligation as a signature to the Paris Agreement and limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.”
Sarah Merrick, founder and chief executive of Ripple Energy, said: “It’s fantastic that the CCC is recommending net zero emissions.
“The government has been dragging its heels on climate change for too long, it’s time for them to treat this crisis as a crisis.
“New onshore windfarms need to be able to get planning consent so we can phase out fossil fuels.
“People require help to switch to electric cars and to replace gas boilers with heat pumps. It’s all totally doable, but there’s absolutely no time to waste.”
Matthew Clayton, managing director of Thrive Renewables, said: “We welcome all steps to accelerate progress.
“The UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent since 1990, but that should be just the beginning.
“Public awareness is growing but there are concerns that the government has taken its foot off the gas – or unfortunately not!
“The red tape slowing onshore renewable development must be removed.”
The chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Orsted UK country manager for offshore, Benj Sykes, said: “The CCC is suggesting a tenfold increase in offshore wind capacity by 2050.
“This is a clear signal to industry and government to aim high when it comes to our renewable energy supply.
“That’s good news for consumers as offshore wind is one of the lowest cost power sources we have, and good news for jobs in the UK.”
Meanwhile Peter Simpson, Anglian Water’s chief executive, said: “We have seen first-hand how ambitious carbon targets can disrupt established practice, drive innovation, and significantly reduce costs and environmental impacts.
“Anglian has already made huge strides towards becoming a carbon neutral business by 2050. In 2010 we set industry leading carbon targets for 2020. By 2015 we had already beaten those targets.”
Matt Allen, chief executive of Pivot Power, said: “As the country moves to establish net zero emissions targets, our message is simple – let’s bring every town, city and village with us in the clean growth revolution.”
Scott McGregor, chief executive of RedT, said: “We are in full support of the UK adopting a zero emissions target for 2050, a move that will benefit the UK’s world-leading low carbon industries and help to tackle climate change.
“The UK is in pole position in the global race to develop effective energy storage solutions and we want to build on this leadership as the energy transition accelerates.”
Simon Daniel, chief executive of smart battery company Moixa, said: “We welcome the acceleration of targets.
“The UK needs to move faster and lead the world as a low carbon economy. We need to deliver the best low carbon electricity grid, through smart charging of batteries and electric vehicles, to maximise solar and wind resources.”
Professor Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, said: “Science is clear that stopping climate change means bringing emissions to net zero.
“And the case for doing that quickly enough to constrain global warming to 1.5C was graphically highlighted by last year’s report from the Intergovernmental panel on climate change which showed that every half degree of additional warming has a serious and measurable impact.
“The Committee on Climate Change shows how the UK can meet the IPCC ambition.
“We can cut our emissions to net zero, the costs are manageable, and, in many ways, from lower air pollution to restored natural environments, the world will be a better place to live in when we do so.”
Richard Black, director of the energy and climate intelligence unit, said: “This is a seminally important report from the committee, confirming that the UK can become the first major economy in the world to deliver on the Paris agreement and can do so painlessly.
“Getting to net zero means making changes across the economy but importantly, nothing looks particularly disruptive.
“The committee is talking about accelerating the ongoing move to clean energy and transport, continuing the modest changes we’re seeing in meat-eating and restoring forests and peatlands – and an overall economic impact that could end up being nil once hidden benefits such as cleaner air are taken into account.
“Equally important is that, while the committee has been deliberating, the voices of businesses, MPs, farmers and the public have been supportive of a net zero transition.
“So now the ball is at the feet of ministers – and the committee suggests there’s everything to gain from acting swiftly and decisively.”
Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, said: “The CCC report – like the reports, protests and documentaries that have come before it – could not be clearer.
“The cost of our carbon economy is too high – too high on bills, our environment and our health. The CCC is also clear that that business and governments must take a lead to deliver a net-zero UK by 2050 – a plan we all must now deliver on.
“The energy sector has a critical role to play, which is why Scottish Power already only generates 100 per cent green energy.
“However the UK needs to quadruple renewable electricity generation by 2050 to reach net-zero and the government needs to urgently remove the barriers to onshore wind to deliver on this.
“There is no cheaper form of renewable energy, it is quick to build and we already know it can lower the cost of energy.”
However Juliet Davenport, founder and chief executive of Good Energy, said the report had a “big blind spot”.
She added: “Whilst acknowledging the necessity to decarbonise electricity production, it completely misses the potential of small-scale generation, focusing only on the big guys and big power stations.
“The total capacity of rooftop scale solar in the UK is already greater than our largest single power station. We believe there is a big missed opportunity to consider a localised grid where people generate, store and share their own energy.
“The report rightly states that the costs of a net zero emissions target must be levelled fairly, and perceived as such. To do so, we need to build a radically new energy system which isn’t held back by existing infrastructure and big power producers, but where consumers are at the heart.”
Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary for energy, said: “The implications of the CCC report reach into every home, job, business and nook and cranny of our lives and society.
“The government itself and parliament must now take direct responsibility for the economic and industrial consequences of the future political decisions that are required.
“This must happen before, for example, we maroon new homes off of the gas grid when a switch to hydrogen is both logical and a recommendation from the CCC report.
“The recent resignation of the fracking commissioner shows just how big the gap is between political decisions and the economic and industrial consequences of those decisions.
“That cannot be allowed to happen with the decarbonisation of our economy.
“The failure to date to ensure joined up decision-making has to end given the unparalleled importance of needing to crack climate change and the effects of getting future key decisions wrong.
“In facing up to the economic and industrial issues tied up in these political decisions, government would be accountable to the electorate as a whole not a vocal activist minority.
“The UK accounts for 1 to 2 per cent of global emissions and our track record of reducing them is one of the best in the world.
“The Office for Budget Responsibility says that by 2022 every household will be paying through their energy bills £10 per week to meet the costs of subsidies to operators of renewable energy sources.
“These subsidies should be from done progressively from general taxation rather than asking lower paid workers to pay the same amount as the better off households.
“GMB is advocating an energy mix that is reliable, affordable, low/zero carbon and with subsidies paid from general taxation.
“This means renewable energy sources and new nuclear power stations with gas used for home heating to lower emissions for the foreseeable future.Hydrogen should be added to the gas grid.
“There are on average one day in six over any year when there is little or no wind.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Committee on Climate Change is clear that the change we need can be achieved.
“The government must now make sure there is a clear and funded path. And it must be a just transition for working people.
“Trade unions stand ready to do our part. Workers who are at the forefront of dealing with the challenges of climate change must have a central voice in plans.
“A quick and successful transition will need agreements with unions to retrain people with jobs at risk for new work in low carbon industry with good pay and conditions.”
Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, said: “We must urgently address the climate change emergency we face.
“Hitting net zero emissions by electrifying heating, using more green electricity and switching to electric vehicles are vital, but won’t be achievable without a smart energy system enabled by smart meters.
“If we’re serious about climate change, we all need take the small but necessary step of getting smart meters installed.”