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Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 25 Nov 2020

The UK was the first developed nation to formally pledge to cut carbon emissions to almost zero in just 30 years. A recent report by the Committee on Climate Change outlined a wide range of policy interventions that will be required over the coming years to hit this ambitious target.

Globally, the debate on post-COVID-19 recovery has focused on building sustainable economies and moving to net zero carbon emissions, but it is unclear whether the pandemic will speed up or reduce the pace of this global energy transition. 

Here are some of the policy interventions laid out by the Committee on Climate Change.

Transport

  • Action: A complete ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.
  • Timing: Policy announced in Dec 2020

Industry

  • Action: New waste strategy and resource efficiency measures to be rolled out.
  • Timing: Early 2020s

Industry

  • Action: Demonstrate the viability of a range of industrial fuel-switching technologies including electrification and hydrogen.
  • Timing: Early 2020s

Hydrogen

  • Action: Trials and pilot projects to establish the practicality of switching to hydrogen across a range of sectors and applications. 
  • Timing: Trials announced in Dec 2020

Buildings

  • Action: Review professional standards and skills across the building, heat and ventilation supply trades with a nationwide training programme to upskill the existing workforce.
  • Timing: 2020-2022

Buildings

  • Action: Draft standards covering owner-occupied, social- and private-rented homes and non-residential buildings, announced well in advance. Review for energy efficiency, all new heating systems to be low-carbon from 2030 in off-gas properties and from 2035 across the building stock.
  • Timing: 2020-2035

Agriculture

  • Action: Invest in R&D, testing and piloting of options for sustainable agricultural productivity improvements in crops and livestock; low-carbon technologies and options for low-carbon agricultural machinery such as tractors and robotics.
  • Timing: Early 2020s

Land use and forestry

  • Action: Promote transformational land-use change and measures for deep emissions reductions including planting trees across at least 30,000 hectares per year, and peat restoration. Policies to encourage the population to shift to less carbon-intensive diets, starting with the public sector.
  • Timing: Early 2020s

Aviation

  • Action: Management policies to ensure emissions remain aligned with a net-zero emissions pathway, if efficiency and low-carbon fuels under-deliver.
  • Timing: Early 2020s

Industry

  • Action: CO2 transport and storage infrastructure up and running, with hydrogen available at multiple industrial sites. 
  • Timing: Mid 2020s

Hydrogen

  • Action: Demonstrate that hydrogen production can be sufficiently low-carbon to play a significant role
  • Timing: Mid 2020s

Buildings

  • Action: Public consultation to decide on the future of the natural gas grid and the balance between hydrogen and electrification for heating. Transition to sustainable heat networks market. Targeted deployment of heat pumps must be able to replace the majority of current gas boiler demand by the early 2030s.
  • Timing: Mid 2020s

Aviation

  • Action: Support the transition to low-carbon, sustainable aviation fuels.
  • Timing: Mid 2020s

Waste and recycling

  • Action: Waste conversion plants (including incineration, gasification and pyrolysis facilities) start retrofitting, and new carbon-reducing plants are built in targeted regions. Long-term plan in place for diversion of all wastes from landfill, phasing out of waste exports, and plans for methane capture, oxidation and remediation at older landfill sites.
  • Timing: From mid-2020s onwards

Hydrogen

  • Action: Low-carbon hydrogen production at scale, for use initially in applications that don’t require major infrastructure changes. 
  • Timing: Second half of the 2020s

Greenhouse gas emissions

  • Action: First deployment of engineered greenhouse gas removals, driven by incentives and enabled by CO2 infrastructure development.
  • Timing: Second half of the 2020s

Transport

  • Action: Trial deployments of hydrogen, battery electric and hybrid HGVs in a variety of fleets, in the UK or elsewhere. 
  • Timing: Testing to take place in second half of the 2020s

Waste and recycling

  • Action: Local authority plans in place to go beyond 70% recycling rates.
  • Timing: Before 2030

Power

  • Action: Deliver plan to decarbonise the power system, including much greater levels of offshore wind.
  • Timing: 2030

Shipping

  • Action: First carbon-free maritime cluster operational, roll-out plan in place for shipping fleet engine retrofits. 
  • Timing: 2030

Earlier this year, ICAEW became the first major professional body in the UK to declare carbon neutrality. Find out more here