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Ambitious policy ‘essential’ to transforming UK energy, say scientists



In order to meet carbon targets set for 2050 the UK government needs to take action now and set out an ambitious policy package to transform the energy system, according to research led by University College London (UCL) scientists.

The study analysed potential pathways the UK could take to decarbonise the economy and help achieve the international target of limiting global warming to 2C.

In order to meet the targets, the scientists say a stronger and more ambitious policy package than currently exists is required. They also recommend that decisions on airport infrastructure and new fossil fuel resource extraction consider the long-term costs and the potential impacts on carbon targets.

Steve Pye, lead author of the report from the UCL Energy Institute, said, “Without a sustained and strong policy push that increases year on year in ambition, the delivery of low carbon technologies at the necessary scale will not be achieved.

“Carbon emissions need to halve by 2030 […]. For this, the UK needs policies now that realise the full low cost energy efficiency potential in buildings, ensure the rapid deployment of low carbon generation technologies such as carbon capture and storage, and prepare for the roll-out of low emissions vehicles in the transport sector and alternative, non-gas based hating systems for homes.”

The findings suggest that over the next 35 years the UK power sector must decarbonise by 85-90% while the direct use of fossil fuels in end use sectors must decrease by more than 70%. Carbon capture and storage technology is also described a needing to play a “central role”.

The model used to explore the pathways shows that a move to low carbon energy sources requires a “strong reduction” in the supply of conventional fossil fuels. Additionally, in the long term, the continued use of gas, including for electricity, will be strongly dependent on the deployment of carbon capture and storage.

Pye added, “Despite the 2050 target already being challenging, the UK may need to be even more ambitious with actions take prior to 2050, as evidence shows that a net zero emissions global energy system is likely to be required by the 2070s to limit global warming. Both near and long-term investments need to take into account the transition required after 2050.”

The findings are part of the Deep Decarbonisation Pathway Project (DDPP), which is coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

The DDPP report includes research from 16 countries that account for three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions and is scheduled for publication in September.

Photo: Colin Brough via Freeimages

Further reading:

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Shell CEO: We can’t ignore the importance of renewable energy

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Plummeting renewable costs present ‘historic opportunity’ to build clean energy systems

Survey: global electricity system could be 70% renewable by 2050


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