Report: Business backing for clean technology could deliver a zero-carbon UK

The UK can become entirely self-sufficient for its energy needs if businesses and policymakers can together demonstrate a strengthened support for existing low-carbon technologies, a new report from research organisation Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has claimed.

The paper, released today (27 February), examines the transport, buildings and energy sectors to identify the changes required to move the UK onto a zero-carbon pathway. This transition would create thousands of green jobs and bring great economic, environmental and social opportunities for the UK, the researchers claim.

“Providing clear evidence that workable solutions already exist is vital. It empowers citizens and gives policymakers no excuse for inaction,” project coordinator Paul Allen said. “CAT’s previous research has shown that we have all the tools and technologies we need; this new report now demonstrates how we can overcome the cultural, economic and political barriers.”

‘Exciting opportunities’

Transport is responsible for about a quarter of the UK’s domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and is the only major sector where emissions are gradually rising. A decarbonisation of the transportation sector would help to tackle climate change and reduce the estimated health costs from air pollution of more than £20bn a year, the report argues.

To achieve a shift towards a zero-carbon transport industry, the paper highlights that all cars, light vans and buses will need to be electric, hydrogen or run on biofuels. Policy measures such as more integrated urban and transport planning, high quality infrastructure and services, and economic incentives would help to address car dependency and demand for air travel, it states.

The report goes on to investigate the building industry, which currently accounts for almost half of the UK’s energy use. CAT claims that an energy efficiency programme could generate economic benefits of £8.7bn to the UK economy. The UK requires around a 50% reduction in energy demand from buildings, according to the CAT, along with a switch away from fossil fuel powered heating system to zero-carbon technologies, if the country is to meet its climate change targets.

Necessary changes proposed within the report include heating demand reductions of at least 60% from 2010 levels by retrofitting the entire existing building stock, and a switch to zero-carbon heating and highly efficient lighting. Flexible energy demand in buildings that involves increased amounts of energy storage would reduce carbon emissions, the report says, as would low-carbon construction materials.

The UK has good natural resources for low-carbon energy development, the research maintains, despite the fact that the country is not on track to meet its target to generate 15% of its energy from renewables sources by 2020. The report insists the UK can meet its energy needs with 100% renewable energy by scaling up installed systems such as wind, solar and tidal technology. It also calls for the repurposing of some land to grow biomass needed for parts of a 100% renewable energy system.

CAT chief executive Adrian Ramsay said: “The shift to zero-carbon could be one of the most exciting opportunities in human history, offering many benefits including better housing, accessible transport, reduced obesity, better physical and psychological wellbeing, and more jobs. It is essential that we understand and start to overcome the barriers to making this shift happen.”

George Ogleby

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