Net zero: UK will miss carbon target without ‘urgent action’

The Science and Technology Committee has slammed the government for ‘unacceptable’ cutbacks and slow progress and set out 10 steps it should take to ensure the goal is met

The UK will be unable to meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 without “urgent action”, MPs have warned.

They have slammed the government for “unacceptable” cutbacks and slow progress and set out 10 steps it should take to ensure the carbon target is met.

The Science and Technology Committee has made a series of recommendations across different sectors, including transport, heating, energy efficiency and the removal of greenhouse gas emissions.

Decarbonising heat

The government is being urged to develop a “clearer” strategy for decarbonising heat, which the Committee says will require large-scale trials of different heating technologies such as heat pumps and hydrogen gas heating.

Energy efficiency incentives

The government should consider adjusting stamp duty so it varies according to the energy performance of the home as well as the price paid for it. Homebuyers should then be able to make energy efficiency improvements within a defined time after buying a property and claim back the reductions in the stamp duty paid.

A ‘Help to Improve’ scheme should be established by July 2020 that offers matched funding and interest-free loans to homeowners to cover the costs of making the energy-saving improvements.

Reducing vehicle emissions

The proposed ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans should be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest and ensure it covers hybrid vehicles too.

In the near term, the government must reconsider the fiscal incentives for consumers to buy both new and used vehicles with lower emissions and work with public services and owners of public land, such as schools and hospitals, to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

Onshore wind and solar support

There should be “strong policy support” for new onshore wind energy and large-scale solar power projects.

MPs say the government should ensure national planning policy supports the repowering of existing sites and a “clear” planning permission framework for repowering existing onshore wind farms should be in place by the end of 2020.

The recommendation follows calls from utility giants, urging the government to establish a new onshore wind generation strategy, which they believe is required to ensure Britain meets the net zero goal.

Smart Export Guarantee

The Committee believes the functioning of the planned successor of the Feed-in Tariff scheme should be reviewed by the end of 2020 and include a minimum price floor if there is evidence of a lack of market competitivity. For example, if the uptake of tariffs is not significantly greater than the current number of tariffs or if the tariffs offered are significantly lower than wholesale electricity prices.

Under the government’s Smart Export Guarantee, households and businesses with new small-scale renewable technologies, such as solar panels, would be paid for exporting electricity to the grid.

It places a legal obligation on energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers to introduce export tariffs by 1st January 2020.

Nuclear power

MPs say the government should seek to support new nuclear power generation “to sustain but not grow” the industry. They are calling for a decision on the future finance framework for new nuclear power by the end of 2019.

They add any gap in future generation capacity must be anticipated and sufficient renewable power should be supported to fill the gap.

Greenhouse gases

A consultation should be launched to inform the development of a future framework for managing and incentivising greenhouse gas removal on the scale required for net zero emissions and to provide “greater certainty” to encourage private investment.

Carbon capture, usage and storage

The government must provide “greater clarity” on the details of its carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) action plan and should learn from previous projects and ensure a sufficient number of projects, of sufficient scale, are undertaken.

Clean growth regulation of energy market

The Committee suggests the government to consider the case for amending Ofgem’s principal objective so it explicitly includes ensuring that regulations align with the emissions reduction targets.

Local authorities support

The government should support local authorities by providing low cost, long term finance as well as ensure a statutory duty to develop emission reduction plans in line with the national net zero goal.

A central guide explaining what measures households can take to support decarbonisation should also be published, in addition to reintroducing a bespoke telephone and visiting advice service.

Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “We need to see the government put its words into actions. The government’s own projections suggest that the UK is not currently on track to meet its current emission targets, let alone net zero by 2050. The rate of deployment of several key low carbon technologies is significantly lower than what is required to meet the government’s ambitions, and various stakeholders expressed concern at the current and projected rate of progress of the UK’s decarbonisation.

“We heard of cutbacks in various programmes and slow progress, which are incompatible with the UK’s two upcoming, legally binding, carbon budgets—this is unacceptable.

If governments across the world fail to act, it will have dire consequences for the environment and generations to come. The scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated.”

Government response

The government said it welcomes the Committee’s report and will consider its findings.

A spokesperson added: “From transport to heating, electricity to agriculture, we are working to put in place the right measures to help us tackle global warming.

“We are going further and faster to tackle climate change than any other major economy having legislated for net zero emissions by 2050.”

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