The UK should ban sales of fossil-fuel heating systems within 13 years in order to meet the , the government’s climate change advisers have said.
In a “blueprint for a fully decarbonised UK” published today, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said gas boilers, which heat 85 per cent of UK homes should only be sold from 2025 if they are able to burn hydrogen, and sales should be banned entirely by 2033.
The move would mark a seismic shift in how the country keeps warm, on a par with the switch from burning coal and wood to gas boilers in the 1960s and 1970s. It will require a big change in homes with installers fitting millions of heat pumps, which are effectively reverse refrigerators and are currently about three times the cost of gas boilers.
The CCC today also urged the UK to set a new goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 78 per cent by 2035 from 1990 levels. “Until last year, that was effectively our 2050 target. The implication of net zero is we have brought that forward by 15 years,” says Chris Stark at the CCC.
Importantly, the target includes shipping and aviation, which in the past were omitted for goals in the next decade. The government has a legal deadline of June 2021 to accept the 2035 goal, known as the sixth carbon budget.
In a 1000-page report released today called The Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s path to net zero, the CCC laid out in minute detail how the UK can best reach net zero, from the to take-up of electric cars and flying less. Stark says the emissions cuts should be “front-loaded” on the road to 2050, with 60 per cent coming in the next 15 years.
Past carbon cuts , but the report shows that future reductions will require the public to make behavioural changes too.
The report calls for a million a year to be installed by 2030. Most of the first ones are expected to go in new homes – the government is expected to ban gas boilers in new builds from 2023 – and homes off the gas grid. Some gas boilers may also use hydrogen in the 2030s, while some homes in cities will rely on centralised heat networks.
Electrification of transport and other sectors is also seen as core to reaching net zero. The report says all electricity generation should be decarbonised by 2035, with some backup provided by hydrogen and power stations with carbon capture and storage. The backbone of the electricity grid will be offshore wind farms, with their capacity expected to increase about 10 times by 2050.
Airport capacity shouldn’t be expanded and the government should implement policies to curb flights, which could take the form of a frequent flyer levy, the CCC said. “They [flights] are one of the most carbon intensive things that we can do and they are largely done by a very small, largely richer part of the population,” says Mike Thompson at the CCC.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing this year’s emissions to fall , the CCC thinks they will rebound as the world gets covid-19 under control. The group also says that net zero could be hit earlier, by 2042, in its most optimistic scenario, in which meat and dairy consumption and the price of electricity all halve, though it considers that unlikely. , and , have called for an earlier date.
The scale of private-sector investment to decarbonise the entire economy remains huge, at around £50 billion a year by 2030, up from £10 billion now. However, the cost of the transition has fallen, from the 1-2 per cent of GDP a year that , to less than 1 per cent now. The drop stems mainly from wind farm power prices , and to a lesser degree from more carbon savings coming earlier, reducing the need for costly ways to remove emissions later, such as .
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