• UK likely to adopt zero net emissions goal by 2050 as New Zealand moves to set similar target

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The UK government’s Committee on Climate Change has issued a report recommending that the kingdom adopts a goal of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 – a recommendation that the government is expected to adopt. The report describes the target, and update on the previous one of an 80% reduction by 2050, as “achievable with known technologies” and within the costs already accepted by parliament for climate change action. Describing current policies as providing a good foundation, the report points out areas in which policies need to be strengthened, including the development of a strategy to decarbonise heating (perhaps either through the use of heat pumps and/or hydrogen), getting carbon capture utilisation and storage “started”, an earlier phase out of petrol and diesel cars (than the current target of 2040), and afforestation. It also notes that industry must be decarbonised, as must transport and agriculture. Negative emissions technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, are to be used to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions that are not able to be reduced otherwise. The overall cost for the transition is estimated at between 1-2% of GDP per year up to 2050, and the report stresses that the distribution of these costs “must be fair, and perceived to be fair”. Elsewhere, the Committee gives its view that it is not currently considered “credible to aim to reach net-zero emissions earlier than 2050”. If the UK does adopt the targets, it will renew its position as a global leader in climate change action, and in this the kingdom enjoys something of a cross-party consensus, unlike some other English-speaking countries. Particularly interesting to the combustion industry will be the push for more support for CCS and hydrogen.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government has introduced into its parliament a bill that would aim to reduce net carbon emissions in the country to zero by 2050. In an important distinction, it would be carbon emissions only that would be reduced to zero (rather than carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, as “carbon emissions” is often shorthand for) – methane emissions from the country’s large agricultural sector would be reduced by up to 47% by 2050 (and 10% by 2030). Some of the country’s farmers have objected to the methane target as too difficult to achieve, while Greenpeace has criticized the bill as being without teeth. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of the bill “We know the climate is changing. People can see that. This legislation makes a start on tackling climate change because the alternative is the catastrophic cost of doing nothing.”