Net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – government climate advisors


Photo: DrillOrDrop

The UK should phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said today.

The official adviser to the government on climate change said the target should be put into law as soon as possible. The reductions were achievable with known technologies alongside improvements in people’s lives, it said.

The target is the most ambitious so far recommended by the CCC and follows the Paris Climate Agreement and a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the implications of a 1.5C rise in temperature.

It comes as MPs approved a motion last night to declare an environment and climate emergency. The Welsh Assembly also backed a climate emergency yesterday. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared a climate emergency at the SNP conference at the weekend.

“Clear policies needed to meet targets”

The CCC said Scotland should achieve net zero emissions by 2045 because it has a greater capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole.

Wales has less opportunity for carbon storage and relatively high emissions from farming so it should achieve a 95% reduction by 2050, it said.

To meet the targets, the CCC said “clear, stable and well-designed policies” must be introduced across the economy, including international flights and shipping.

The CCC called for “strong leadership” at the heart of government and policies must be designed with both business and consumers in mind.

“Government must set the direction and provide the urgency. The public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed.”

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said:

“We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted.

“The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”

190502 CCC reportToday’s report comes 10 years after the passing of the Climate Change Act, the world’s first legally-binding long-term emissions target. This set a target of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 19990 levels by 2050.


The CCC said serious plans were needed to clean up heating systems in UK buildings. New approaches to low-carbon heating and energy efficiency were needed, with changes to the fabric of homes, it said.

The country needed to deliver technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and make changes to the way we use land. Diets needed to shift to lower beef, lamb and dairy consumption.

All new cars and vans should be electric by 2035, if not sooner. Arrangements were needed by the mid-2020s for zero emission heavy goods vehicles. Biodegradable waste should not be sent to landfill after 2025 and the supply of low-carbon power must expand rapidly. Potent fluorinated gases must be phased out and there should be increased tree planting.

Fossil fuels

pnr 180828 fence slider

Fencing outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site, 18 August 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

The report makes no specific reference to UK onshore gas or oil production, shale gas or fracking. But the recommendations have implications for gas use and fossil fuel industries.

The CCC said a 32% reduction in gas consumption and 82% in oil consumption was needed by 2050.

Boilers running on natural gas would need to be replaced with low carbon heating systems. These could include smart electric heating, heat pumps or boilers powered by hydrogen. The hydrogen was assumed to be made from natural gas in conjunction with carbon capture and storage, it said.

A small amount of biogas could be used in gas-fired CCS power generation and to displace natural gas in industry and buildings

Current gas distribution networks would be decommissioned or repurposed for hydrogen if feasible.

Significant reductions in gas use across buildings, industry and power would be offset by new demand for gas to produce hydrogen. But it would still mean the UK would become less dependent on gas imports. Dependency on oil imports would all fall, it said.

Costs and benefits

The CCC said rapid reductions in costs of offshore wind and batteries for electric vehicles meant that the net zero emissions target could be met at an annual cost of 1-2% of gross domestic product up to 2050. It said the costs must be, and be perceived to be, fair.

The report said there would be benefits from a low carbon economy, including better air quality, less noise, more cycling and walking, healthier diets and increased use of land for recreation.

It said:

“Currently the general public has a low awareness of the need to move away from natural gas heating and what the alternatives might be. There is a limited window to engage with people over future heating choices, to understand their preferences and to factor these into strategic decisions on energy infrastructure.


Campaign groups

Friends of the Earth said the UK can and should go faster towards net zero emissions than the CCC recommendations. It has produced a Climate Action Plan that the government should implement to achieve net zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. It covers transport, buildings, green jobs, and the UK’s contribution to helping vulnerable countries, as well as aiming for 100% clean energy and stopping airport expansion.

FOE’s climate campaigner, Aaron Kiely, said:

“The world’s scientists have told us that every additional half-degree of warming really matters. A target that slashes the UK’s emissions, and therefore our overall contribution to climate change, is desperately needed.

“While this is a massive body of important and credible work, it needs to inject more urgency. A roughly fifty-fifty chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees is worse odds than Russian roulette. Every government across the globe should be aiming to get to net zero as soon as possible.

“By ramping up some measures, for example by aiming to double tree cover rather than a slight increase, the UK could get to net zero sooner. The Committee are saying that net zero is possible by 2050 but that doesn’t mean we should accept this as the height of ambition. There are no speed cameras on the road to net zero, we can and must go faster.”

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:

‘Climate change is the greatest threat facing the countryside. From prolonged heatwaves and moorland wildfires, to severe and more frequent flooding, our countryside is under severe pressure from the impact of climate breakdown – but it will also provide many of the solutions.

‘By prioritising policies and funding that will see better land use, dramatically reduce emissions from agriculture, increase the planting of hedgerows and trees, and restore our peatlands, we can drive carbon back into the ground. Our transition to renewable energy must intensify and a deadline set for the phasing out of fossil fuels. The government’s pro-fracking agenda must be dropped altogether.’


The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee is to hear evidence on 8 May on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first session, on 8 May, will hear from climate specialists. The energy minister, Claire Perry, will give evidence at a later date.

The chair of the committee, the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, said:

 “We are facing a climate change emergency and I welcome the Committee on Climate Change’s report which sets out a compelling case for the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Achieving this target will not be without its challenges, but it is vital that Government commits to net-zero and brings forward the policies needed for the UK to deliver it and capitalise on the future industrial opportunities offered by pursuing clean growth.

“We are currently not on target to meet the UK’s fourth and fifth carbon budgets, let alone achieve net zero so the stark reality is that the UK Government has a lot to do to help deliver a better planet for our children. On onshore wind, on electric vehicles, on carbon capture and storage, and on a range of other transport and energy areas such as energy efficiency, the Government needs to up its game and come forward with the policies, actions, and regulations needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“As a Committee, we will over the coming weeks be examining how to implement the 2050 target and holding the UK Government to account for its response to this challenge”.


Francis Egan Cuadrilla

Francis Egan, CEO Cuadrilla  Source: Cuadrlla

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said:

“We note that the Committee on Climate Change report published today recognises that we will continue to be using significant quantities of natural gas in the UK out to 2050 and beyond in conjunction with  Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology and in producing hydrogen as an alternative energy for the future.

“We also note the assumption in the report that the CO2 and methane emissions generated in importing natural gas into the UK over huge distances by ship and by pipeline are not to be accounted for by the UK.  Imported gas therefore lands into the UK effectively emission free. This smacks of creative carbon accounting and is not a credible or safe assumption.

“All concerned about addressing climate change should accept that using natural gas extracted here in the UK, such as the 1,300 trillion cubic feet beneath our feet in the Bowland Shale, is environmentally far more responsible than importing gas from thousands of miles away.

“The committee’s report highlights some tough proposals if we are to become net zero by 2050, but it is also clear that our demand for gas will remain and could be 86% imported gas by then if we don’t establish our own source.

“For these reasons we urge the Government to support our request for a review of the regulations and assist the onshore shale gas industry in becoming commercially viable and assisting the country in achieving our ambitious climate change aims.”

UKOOG, the industry organisation for onshore oil and gas said:

UK Onshore Oil and Gas, (UKOOG), notes the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations today including the absolute need for both Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and hydrogen production. We further note that the working assumption is that the hydrogen used is assumed to come mainly from natural gas reformation in the UK with CCS as this appears to be the lowest cost option. The hydrogen will be used in both the electricity and heating sectors.

The Committee also pointed out that gas consumption in 2050 will be 600 TWh against an estimate for UK production of only 85 TWh. In addition, oil consumption will be 140 TWh against an estimate of 130 TWh for UK production.

This means that without onshore gas and oil there will be a considerable import dependency (as high as 86%) even under net zero conditions. A BEIS report published just last week concluded that the pre-combustion production, processing and transport of liquified natural gas, (LNG),  generates double the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared with a domestic supply.

We therefore believe the economic and environmental case for onshore gas and oil in the UK is as strong today as it ever has been.

63 replies »

  1. I note heat from air source is one being recommended. Now, I have one as supplementary heating and great they are. BUT-I live in a house with plenty of space around it so the heat I extract in the winter is not a big deal for my neighbours, but would these work very well within new build, dense housing estates whilst Beast from the East Mark 2 was happening? Certainly I know some who have the ground sourced version and they have said one of the problems is whether an individual property has enough ground to source enough heat from.

    It makes me wonder if 100 houses cheek to jowl could find they produce a mini arctic effect outside to keep their inside warm, and then the mini arctic does not have enough heat to extract to do that.

    Anyone have any knowledge on that?

  2. Well, the usual responses more talk and no walk.

    Am afraid folks you are all still on chapter one and we have reached the end pages.

    Where is the argument for maximising renewables and topping up with a small amount of natural gas from the Norths Sea?
    As we speak, huge quantities of NS gas are being wasted, up in a puff of unnecessary toxic smoke; extinction is real. The gas we have should be used for the next 200 years, not 20; no need for the myth of fracked gas, no need for imports.

    Maximise on wind, solar and concentrate on developing wave power [no batteries required].

    Dump the plastic covered overpriced food that looks pretty but is full of mind numbing sugar; addicts beware.

    Eat well on less and fresh; we need to get off our arses and grown food organically in our gardens and in shared spaces:

    Stop destroying the soil with chemicals and perpetuating the suffering of all other inhabitants of our planet for our laziness.

    Too many living on climate credit, the interest only loan has now stacked up – time to pay up!

  3. Well, Passepartout, last time I checked my little corner of the globe was having new build houses squeezed in with no garden left if you added a shed. (The land that was allocated for a few allotments was part of the sacrifice.) Those new build houses generally had no garages-to save space-with two cars parked outside as both adults worked to earn enough to pay for their new house, costing over £400k!

    Yes, in parts of this country a few can live off grid/self sustaining life styles but not possible or desired by the vast majority.

    Anyway, you will be pleased to note that we will be requiring vast quantities of Donalds chickens to replace beef and lamb! (UK chickens will be too expensive as we will not be able to produce feed for them with land allocated for other uses.) Perhaps the oil tankers could tow a refrigerated unit along behind them.

    But, I do like the tree proposal-as long as we avoid forest fires and scared youngsters.

  4. Really?

    You need to get out and find out how people live their lives in UK. Unless those who want to see change identify what is practical and just push their own favourites they will find there is no engagement.

    Perhaps check back to the great Spanish courgette shortage that interrupted winter supplies to the UK a while ago and the anger that provoked! That is the mindset to alter, and it may take smaller steps than you would suggest. After that, air freight for winter French beans could follow.

  5. Oh I do, Passepartout. My garden extends to around 0.75 of an acre, so I can, but as soon as a frost occurs they are still gone. By that time a good stock have been placed in the freezer within ratatouille, and then the remains of that later in the year are turned into soup. And, all my friends, relatives and neighbours are fed up with courgette as well by then. (We did try courgette/chocolate cake but an acquired taste!)

    This years are already planted out, and if this weekends frost gets through the fleece (wonder how that’s made?) to them there are replacements ready in the greenhouse, snuggled between the tomatoes and cucumbers. (Peat free compost.)

    However, unlike yourself, I recognise the vast majority in the UK are unable or unwilling to do the same. But you can lecture them on how to live their lives and they will react positively if it fits the way they want to live-or close to-if not, you will get a very different reaction! I see that as the biggest practical downside to todays announcement and I would predict that will be the major problem with getting buy in from any but the already converted.

    The trees I still like! Dust off the lumberjack song.

    The off-shore turbines I also like, with a few reservations but I hope they could be integrated with a fish nursery policy. Off shore oil rigs can be quite a good means of attracting and expanding marine life and this could be positively integrated between and around wind turbines, with a control on fishing area at the same time. Perhaps with some thought a better and cheaper supply of fish into the UK market would be a better means to control beef and lamb consumption than lectures about doom. Persuasion is better than patronising, or scaremongering. Remember Project Fear?

    • Marty, you don’t need to just plant courgettes…you only need a few plants; hey, why don’t you give your surplus away? Perhaps to some of those less well off pensioners, then they will have money for heating?

      ‘However, unlike yourself, I recognise the vast majority in the UK are unable or unwilling to do the same’ – do you?

      Unable, no; now let me see….something to do with the war effort; nah, must have been a dream.

      Unwilling? Perhaps a read of the sad demise of little Ella Kissi-Debrah; this will be the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren if we teach from your version of the world…

      Persuasion enough?

      I am pleased to see you are coming around to some of the solutions, but it can still be said that we all are not nearly fearful enough. Whilst the governance feeds small scraps, you and many others are conned into thinking it is fixed; far from it. We need to be afraid.

      Those in power are fearful of the wrong things; they should stop being afraid of the loss of money and lifestyle, and instead be very afraid of the mass extinction of life. You cannot eat, breath and drink money. We in the developed world are too heavy for the planet!

      The solutions so far reported in the CCC are as useful as a chocolate teapot. I could throw some of your proverbial pixie dust and get a better result 😉

      • Ahh, I see your problem now Passepartout! Those blinkers only allow you to read a small part of what is printed-or, are your batteries failing!?

        “friends, relatives and neighbours”

        And as you obviously need a bit of education in the courgette growing area, they are like any plants-some years they produce many more fruits than other years. Two plants for me last year produced around double that of four plants the previous year. Oh, the uncertainty of food production. I also notice my apple trees have far less blossom this year than last, so the bumper apple crop of last year may not be same this year, and this is complicated by having one variety which is famous for that.

        But, there we have it. The life force of the anti. Look at a small part of any information and ignore the rest. Good job you were not thinking of being a captain of a ship sailing through waters with icebergs to navigate! On that basis, yes you need to be afraid, but “we” do not.

  6. “UK needs to take the lead and others will follow”!!!

    Well, Australia seems to have decided it is a sovereign country and will make its own decisions. Bit of a problem when people think they are independent.

  7. Some progress, but the goal is to save as much life on Earth as possible.

    The IPPC idea that all we need is enough action to result in a 50/50 chance of preventing run away planetary heating is so disappointingly inadequate. Even this level of “success” is just part of a sliding scale of extinction.

    If this is the level of ambition, you can expect a lot more rebellion from XR.

  8. Interesting though Dorkinian that the first survey of the public to last weeks report showed a large majority against cutting back on their flights, so XR may have a problem-especially the young guy taken apart on Sky, that subsequently showed his escapades on Facebook upon the ski slopes.

    Perhaps a first step would be to cut back on all those flights by the climate change industry to their many and far flung jollies?

    In a world where the middle classes have overtaken the poor, yet only around 18% have been on a ‘plane, and world population increasing anyone with one grey cell can do the maths. You will not stop more people wanting to fly-need to find less polluting ways when they do.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s