Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) has found in its third report that politics and society are holding the UK back from achieving a modern decarbonised energy sector
ZCB is led by the environmental charity Centre for Alternative Technology based at Machynlleth in Wales. Its third report makes clear that although Britain has the technology to create a decarbonised energy sector the opportunity to do so is being held back by politics and society.
The ‘Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future’ report was launched officially at the Houses of Parliament last week at the final sitting of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group. It stresses that the UK doesn’t need to rely on promises of future technological developments as it already has an appropriate level of technology available. What needs to happen is that the government should focus on creating policies to bring decarbonisation efforts to fruition thereby mitigating climate change. The only hurdles to overcome are therefore ‘political and societal’ rather than technological.
Despite the Coalition government’s promise to the the ‘greenest government ever’ it has been criticised for dragging its feet on decarbonising the electricity sector. The government failed to bring forward a decarbonisation target in the new Energy Bill and current UK emissions targets (80 per cent reduction by 2050) ‘do not adhere to a carbon budget required for a good chance of avoiding a two degree (Celsius) global average temperature rise’.
The report indicates that UK greenhouse gas emissions reductions of ‘over 90 percent’ are possible without the development of any new technology and without a detrimental effect on quality of life. Over 50 percent of the annual energy required could be sourced from wind power with the rest covered by carbon-neutral synthetic gas and liquid fuels derived from UK-grown biomass. Along with smart energy demand management, this could wean the UK off its reliance on energy imports and ‘provide for some transport and industrial processes that cannot run on electricity’.
“A lot of Britain's energy infrastructure is coming to the end of its design life” said Paul Allen, ZCB Project Co-ordinator. “We need to replace it and we do not want to lock ourselves into the wrong energy path. Now is the time to have that critical debate about what are our energy sources and the means of using energy that we will need for the twenty-first century. The fact that we can demonstrate rapid decarbonisation is possible with current technology and without significant lifestyle changes should be a major call to action.”
ZCB also advocates biomass as one of the key renewable energy sources for the UK derived from second-generation energy crops. Biomass could also be used for ‘back-up generation’ in order to ‘keep the lights on’ although this would have to come from non-food related crops, including organic waste, if the EU parliament accepts draft legal measures to cap biofuel production from traditional food crops.
Other measures advocated by the report include the promotion of healthier diet with a decrease in consumption of meat and dairy products, changes in the way we travel and more energy efficient buildings with renewable heating. The report states that such changes could generate over a million new jobs as well as making Britain more sustainable.
‘Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future’ (report)