Politics

UK climate assembly rejects fossil fuels and CCS

Photo: DrillOrDrop

A key part of the UK government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been opposed by the first citizens’ assembly on climate change.

Ministers and their advisers have previously said the UK would continue to use natural gas for “many years to come” and that carbon capture and storage (CCS) would have an “essential role” in meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2050.

But the UK Climate Assembly has voted strongly for a move away from fossil fuels and against the use of CCS.

The assembly, commissioned by six parliamentary committees, published its recommendations this morning on how the UK could reach net zero.

The 556-page final report, The Path to Net Zero, was the result of six weekends of assembly sessions, involving 108 members selected to represent the UK population in age, gender, ethnicity, home area and level of concern about climate change.

Many of the 50 recommendations, covering issues such as travel, home heating, electricity generation, greenhouse gas removal, shopping and food production, were in line with advice from the government’s adviser, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

But the assembly’s votes on fossil fuel use and carbon capture went against the CCC’s latest recommendations and government policy.

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

In secret ballots, 89% of assembly members agreed or strongly agreed that the government should move away from fossil fuels.

Just 22% supported the use of fossil fuels with CCS to generate electricity. 22% were unsure and 56% disagreed. This compared with 95% support for electricity from offshore wind, 81% for solar power and 78% for onshore wind.

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

The results are likely to disappoint the oil and gas industry, which regularly quotes government support for hydrocarbons as an energy source as part of the transition to a low carbon economy.

On the use of CCS as a method to remove greenhouse gases, only 42% supported bioenergy CCS and direct air CCS. Natural alternatives received much greater support: forest management 99%; peatland and wetland management 85%; and using wood in construction 82%.

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

One of the main reasons given for disliking CCS was that it maintained the use fossil fuels. Some assembly members suggested that it was “sidestepping the issue”, “carrying on as normal” and “not doing much to help climate change”. There were also worries about how safely carbon could be stored underground and whether there was a risk of leaks.

The technology was also described as “short-termism”, “unrealistic”, “not viable”, “not reliable” and “nowhere near being ready.”

Other members said CCS using redundant North Sea oil and gas wells would create jobs and use existing infrastructure. There were still fossil fuels available, they said, and electricity generation from gas was reliable and not dependent on weather or seasons.

Professor of Jim Watson, of University College London, an expert adviser to the assembly, said:

“The voting results do not make great reading for supporters [of CCS]. 22% unsure and a majority against.”

On the reasons why assembly members voted against CCS, he said:

“There is a clue there for the government. If those were the concerns, this is where the government, if they wish to pursue it, will have to assuage.”

Chris Stark, another assembly adviser and chief executive of the CCC, said:

“The view of the assembly doesn’t match what government has been recently saying about carbon capture and storage. It also doesn’t look as if it matches the outlook that the Committee on Climate Change projects for the future either. And that is one of the very valid concerns that came out from this.”

He said the committee had always supported CCS because it allowed other policies and technologies to be part of a low carbon transition. But he said:

“If we are going to have carbon capture and storage as part of the UK’s journey … then there is a task for the government and perhaps the industry to win round people on why it is a safe technology, why it can work and why it is a sensible technology.”

Assembly members did support the use of hydrogen (83%) for home heating, a technology promoted by some onshore gas companies.

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

But there was concern about hydrogen produced from methane (known as blue hydrogen). Assembly members who opposed blue hydrogen said it still used fossil fuels, relied on CCS and was less energy intensive than natural gas. Some said the UK should consider using only the zero-carbon green hydrogen, produced from water by electrolysis.

The report called for strong clear leadership from government allowing for certainty, long-term planning and a phased transition. It also stressed the needs for a cross-party, rather than partisan approach, as well as education and information, fairness, urgency and protection of the natural environment.

On the recommendations, Chris Stark said, with the exception of carbon capture, the technical assessments on reaching net zero by the CCC matched “quite well” with the views of the assembly.

He said:

“Where possible, we [the CCC] will draw on the assembly’s views in our forthcoming advice to government on the sixth carbon budget.”

The chairs of the parliamentary committees, which commissioned the assembly, urged the prime minister to “consider carefully the recommendations in the report”. They requested a published government response before the end of the year.

Rampion windfarm. Photo: Rampion Offshore Wind

Other assembly recommendations

Travel

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

The future should minimise restrictions on how people travel, the assembly said. Instead there should be a shift to electric vehicles and improved public transport

  • Ban on sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030-2035
  • Reduction in car use by 2-5% per decade
  • Quickly stop selling the most polluting cars
  • Increased investment in bus services
  • Making public transport cheaper and bring it back under government control
  • Investment in cycling and scootering
  • Minimised restrictions on travel and lifestyle
  • Support for shifting travel to electric vehicles and public transport

Air

Source: The Path to Net Zero, Climate Assembly UK

People should continue to fly but increases in passenger numbers should be limited, the assembly said.

  • Growth in air passengers should be limited to 25-50% between 2018-2050
  • 30m tonnes of CO2 would still be emitted by aviation in 2050 that would need to be removed
  • Removal should be funded by the airline industry or government incentives
  • Invest in alternatives to air travel and new technologies for air travel
  • Increase taxes on people who fly more often and as they fly further

Home heating

The assembly supported tailored solutions, increased choice, reliable information and the need for solutions suitable for all income groups and housing types.

  • Local areas and individuals should be able to choose the best options
  • Support for smaller organisations to offer energy services
  • Ban on sales of new gas boilers from 2030 or 2035.

Food and farming

The assembly supported information and education, efficient land use, more local and seasonal food and making low carbon food more affordable.

  • Local produce and food production
  • Voluntary change in diet to reduce meat and dair by 20-40%
  • Managed diverse land use
  • Labelling the carbon cost of food and drink productions
  • Low carbon farming regulations
  • Paying farmers to use land to absorb and store carbon
  • Preference for government contracts to low carbon food and products

Shopping

  • Support for businesses making products using less and lower carbon energy and materials
  • Support to individuals to repair and share more
  • Better information to promote informed choice and changes in behaviour
  • Measures to increase recycling

Covid recovery

Earlier this summer, the assembly published recommendations for how climate change policies should be included in a Covid-19 recovery.

79% of assembly members agreed or strongly agreed that steps taken by the government to help the economy should be designed to help achieve net zero.

96% supported steps by government and employers to encourage lifestyle changes compatible with net zero.

8 replies »

  1. Can’t see why feathers should be ruffled, Jono. As expected-fantasy over reality, with practicality missing.

    Will have to be converted into reality, and the Laws of Physics and maths taken account of. So, many will be disappointed/angry and a few will get an odd bone thrown their way to keep them happy. Always going to be the case.

    By the way, I quite like the “idea” of more trees BUT with an over populated island in need of more housing, food production being restricted with more biofuel production, on shore wind turbines, solar farms etc.-WHERE?? Just import more food? US chicken or US wheat for intensive UK chicken? Nope-they are against that also!

    Noticed a big omission regarding diet. Best way to control red meat consumption is to increase fish consumption. Perhaps someone should link the extra fishing available to the UK in a few months time to a program to make sure more is consumed in UK rather than exported? Much of UKs best fish is currently not available to many in UK. Make it so, at reasonable prices, and the UK diet would change pretty quickly.

  2. The objectives proposed by the UK Climate Assembly are misleading and will not be achievable for the following reasons:

    Cost, Timescale and Resources.

    To achieve the objectives energy bills will Increase significantly. To convert the UK to an all- electric or part hydrogen economy will raise the cost of electricity for heating, by 3 or 4 times the cost of gas today. A household today that pays £500 per year for gas, in 2030/2050 will pay £1500 or more when using electricity or hydrogen. One in ten households today is fuel poor. The drive to be carbon neutral will be paid for by the poorest people.

    The building of more wind and solar is not a sound policy. In 2018 wind and solar provided the UK with 70 terawatt hours of energy. 7.9% of the total 880 TWh of the UK energy supplied by gas. Wind and solar are very variable and have to be backed up by gas fuelled generation.
    Note that Germany has next to the highest electricity price in the EU, at 25.59p per kWhr, compared to 14p per kWh in the UK. This is due to a policy of developing a large renewable sector (wind and solar).

    In order to replace the energy supplied by gas today for industry, domestic heating and electricity generation, (880 TWhr in 2018), and also in the future to supply electric cars.

    The UK will need to build and commission the following:

    10 off Hinkley Point C power stations, 8 off tidal barrier schemes,11,000 10 MW wind turbines,
    70 of 880 MW gas turbines, to provide back-up when the wind fails to blow.
    Upgrade most of the distribution network, homes and buildings to total electricity use.
    Provide at least 200,000 public charging stations for electric cars.
    All this at an approx cost £600 billion and a 70 to 100 year planning & build time.

    Think of the howls of protest by the enviromentalist groups.

    The UK’s current high standard of living is based on the use of fossil fuels.
    Coal (it takes one tonne of coal to produce 1.5 tonnes of crude steel) and coke are required to produce steel for buildings machines and cars, gas is used for heating and many industrial processes, gas is used to manufacture fertilizer and hence our food. Gas, coal or oil heating is used to make cement, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals depends on fossil fuels.
    Oil provides transport and delivers most of the goods and food we use on a daily basis.
    Oil provides many of the plastics we use.

    The UK should not cripple these industries with high fuel prices and carbon taxes.

    These industries provide our wealth and the taxes that pay for the staff and buildings of hospitals, schools, fire and police, all the public services we enjoy.

  3. Green Hydrogen instead of Nat gas for heating anyone?

    Current cost of Nat gas is around €22/MWh, cost of Green Hydrogen is around €150/MWh.

    The cost of Green Hydrogen may fall to around €30/MWh by 2050, if renewable electricity and electrolyzer costs can be reduced sufficiently (EU Hydrogen strategy report).

  4. The dinosaurs continue to argue in favour of fossil fuels and the status quo but the tide of change continues. There is a global movement against plastics and fossil fuels and even the majors, like BP, are starting to acknowledge reality. Well done the Climate Assembly, because if we continue as we are we destroy the planet.

  5. Someone who uses the dinosaur label but still believes in Says Law!!

    Sorry, KatT, demand creates it’s own supply. You may want to alter that but when it comes to it, the voters will not support it. I suspect Mr. Abbott will be able to reinforce that should it be needed, as Australia was a good example of the practicalities of how demand will control supply via the ballot box.

    Interesting how you so easily try to slip in fantasy to support your dogma. Who is arguing for the status quo? Yes, some are arguing against your dogma, but I see few arguing for the status quo.

    Advisors advise, Ministers decide. Select Committees think they can do better than Ministers, who still decide. Advisors and Select Committee members can make incorrect decisions and still be in a job (bit like Cllrs!), rarely the case with Ministers-unless there is a pandemic to blame. Otherwise, they return to the back benches and join a Select Committee.

  6. There should be a Covid assembly, then we could determine what people think what is required to recover from covid while going green.

    Plus – No mention of addressing the population issue tho with the peoples assembly. Too hard an issue?

  7. KatT, if these proposals are to be progressed with public support and backing, then honest open discussions need to take place not only on the effects they will have on reducing global emissions and climate change, but also on how they will be financed and what the cost will be to UK households and industry. The type of honest and open discussions some groups currently seem keen to avoid.

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