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Report provides roadmap for zero-carbon Britain

28/07/2011

  • United Kingdom
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A report published by the UK Centre for Alternative Technology outlines proposals to bring about a zero-carbon Britain by 2030 while emphasising the need for global collaboration.

zerocarbonbritain2030 suggests the UK could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2030, while offsetting the remaining 10% of emissions. In addition to adopting environmental technologies and reducing fossil fuel use, the June 2010 report calls for increased resource efficiency and significant societal behaviour changes.

A number of actions must be taken before a zero-carbon UK can become a reality – largely involving new technologies, efficient design and behaviour change. Individuals and communities must be urged to play their part in decarbonisation. Actions and experiences – which are entertaining, tangible and achievable – must be promoted to foster new environmentally-friendly social norms.

The authors of this report make a number of recommendations which they believe will cut emissions to zero, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and address environmental challenges. Significant amounts of employment would result for example from retrofitting and new energy- and resource-efficiency installations, yielding as many as 173 jobs per TWh saved. And the total deployment of wind power envisaged by the report alone could deliver 3.4 million job years.

Measures taken in relation to the built environment could lead to a 50% reduction in heat and electricity demand. Eco-design and eco-products in the area of space heating – particularly passive design to increase natural heat gains – could bring about such a reduction. Moreover, the insulation of all of Britain’s uninsulated cavity walls and lofts, as well as an increase in the use of natural and recycled construction materials, could be of significant environmental benefit. Natural and recycled materials also absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and can therefore be used for carbon sequestration.

In terms of land use, zerocarbonbritain2030 calls for a reduction in livestock products – which currently generate 82% of agriculture’s greenhouse gases – the report highlights the role land can play in mopping up emissions through sequestration.

The changes in land use and agriculture would require Britain’s population to adopt a ‘healthy and globally sustainable diet’ – one based on ‘plenty of plants; not much meat; and maximum variety’.

While some of the proposals – such as changing the population’s diet – may not receive widespread public support, this report nevertheless represents a bold yet comprehensive roadmap for bringing about a more sustainable Britain. It also emphasises the urgent need for international agreement and for different policy options for emissions reduction including cap and trade, carbon tax and tradable energy quotas.

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