The announcement follows a report published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) which recommended the UK increase its ambition from the existing 80% target to overall net-zero emissions. BEIS Ministers such as Claire Perry have been keen on moving the UK to a net zero target for sometime, however it was not known whether the Government as a whole would ever have the political will, or time to implement such a change. Like the 2008 Climate Change Act, the net zero target is a legally binding move that will tie any future Prime Minister’s hand unless they can find a majority in Parliament to overturn it.
Campaigners have been quick to applaud adoption of the net zero target in the hope that action to green the economy will now be implemented faster in order to achieve it. Being the first major economy to commit to ending its contribution to climate change, the UK will have its work cut out decarbonising the economy and a just transition certainly won’t happen overnight.
Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the CCC believes that reducing emissions from housing will be the biggest decarbonisation challenge. This won’t come as a surprise anyone working in the sector, but it may well add fire to the debate about the best routes to take. Efficiency savings have driven competition within the industry until now but under the new net-zero target, these won’t be enough. Fuels and technologies will now need to demonstrate that they can abolish emissions entirely.
One of the most positive changes that could come from a net zero target is that it should provide a final nail in the coffin for those seeking a ‘’silver bullet’’ to heat decarbonisation. Energy efficiency of course comes first, but after that the UK will need to explore and ultimately deploy a wide range of heat production and storage technologies to ensure the built environment plays its part.
Those promoting individual technologies or solutions will also have to think hard about the wider economy and second or third level impact of their proposal. For example, household food waste could provide a flexible and low-cost alternative to fossil fuel heating if converted to bio-gas, however that same waste may be allocated to electricity generation, heavy goods transportation or creation of bio-liquids for another sector entirely.
There is much to forget from the last 3 years in politics, however one of the final, unexpected acts of Theresa May’s Government could prove to be the most far reaching. It would be a bit rich for her to claim this act as a legacy of her own making given all of the work that has gone into it by others, but nevertheless it could represent one of the few positives she and others point to in years to come.
Article Written by Ecuity Partner, James Higgins, originally published in the July edition of H&V News Magazine