Reaching net zero ‘needs to be driven by existing technologies’

That’s the suggestion from UK Fires, which says it is too risky and slow to wait for breakthrough technologies to deliver future emissions reductions

The world can’t wait for breakthrough technologies to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050 and instead must use existing technologies to drive incremental change.

That’s the suggestion from UK Fires, a collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London, which has published a new report outlining opportunities for future growth and changes that will need to be made to future lifestyles and business models on the journey towards decarbonisation.

It says over the last two decades, mankind has been trying to develop new technologies to supply energy and drive economic growth while avoiding making significant changes to how people go about their lives.

It warns many of these will take a long time to deploy and are unlikely to be operating at scale within thirty years – instead, it calls for a need to switch to 100% electrification, which it suggests could cut the global use of energy to 60% of today’s levels.

It says this is possible through incremental changes, such as driving smaller cars, taking public transport, using efficient electric heat-pumps and ensuring buildings, vehicles and equipment are well-designed and long-lasting.

It warns the two industries most challenged by an all-electric future are flying and shipping – it suggests electric planes won’t be operating at commercial scales within 30 years, so reaching zero emissions would mean people have to stop using aeroplanes – similarly, shipping is unlikely to make the shift to 100% electric vessels by this time.

The report states: “Apart from flying and shipping, all of our current uses of energy could be electrified. With tremendous commitment, the UK could generate enough non-emitting electricity to deliver about 60% of our current final energy-demand but we could make better use of that through incremental changes in the technologies that convert energy into transport, heating and products.

“No one actor can bring about Absolute Zero. Delivering it is a journey depending on co-operative action by individuals, businesses and governments acting on good information.”

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