In the next 15 years, the UK can cut emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels for less than 1% of GDP, according to the government’s climate advisors.
On 9 December, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its report for the Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) where it stressed the UK faces a “decisive decade” of progress and action on climate change in the 2020s. By following the CCC’s recommended budget, “well over half” of the required emissions reductions to 2050 could be achieved. A major investment programme would be required with this led by government, though largely funded through the private sector. It would see low-carbon investment scale up to reach £50bn each year from 2030 to 2050.
It outlined four key steps to be taken for delivery of the Sixth Carbon Budget, commencing with take-up of low carbon solutions as high carbon options are phased out. This would involve all new cars, vans and boiler replacements in homes and other buildings being low-carbon in the early 2030s. Mandating of hydrogen-ready boilers is recommended from 2025, with gas boiler installations being banned in new-builds from 2033 except in areas anticipated to receive gas from a 100% hydrogen grid or in areas too expensive to electrify. Industry will shift to use renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, or capture its carbon emissions and store them under the sea.
An expansion of low-carbon energy supplies will lead to UK electricity production becoming zero carbon by 2035 as offshore wind becomes the “backbone” of the UK energy system. By 2050, low-carbon hydrogen will have scaled up to become almost as large as electricity production is today. Hydrogen will also be used as shipping and transport fuel, in industry, and in buildings as a replacement for natural gas for heating. Emphasis was also placed on the need for reducing demand for carbon intensive activities, as well as action on land and greenhouse gas removals.
The report further highlighted the importance of developing and scaling up new options for industrial decarbonisation, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and low-carbon hydrogen, over the next decade and mapped out a series of key outcomes and milestones to target up to 2050.
Ahead of COP26 next year, a hydrogen strategy and consultation on hydrogen business models are needed, while by the end of 2022, CCUS business models need to be decided on for power, hydrogen and manufacturing and construction, with business models established for both electrification and hydrogen-use in manufacturing.
The mid-2020s will see the construction of a low-carbon hydrogen plant to demonstrate hydrogen production at scale at 1GW of capacity. In 2025, the CCC also called for strategic decisions on the future of the gas grid, including the extent of any planned conversions of the gas grid to hydrogen and for all new boilers to be hydrogen-ready.
By 2030, the UK would see CCS and low-carbon hydrogen across five industrial clusters, capturing and storing at least 10 MtCO2 per year and producing 30TWh a year of low-carbon hydrogen. Other targets include a commercial roll out of low-carbon ammonia and hydrogen starting in shipping, with at least one cluster and a switch to 25TWh of manufacturing energy to electricity or hydrogen, over the course of the 2030s. There would also be widespread roll out of CCS, including on energy-from-waste plants.
By 2050, low-carbon electricity, hydrogen and bioenergy provide all of the UK’s energy, in combination with CCS, whilst low-carbon technologies and behaviours continue to roll out at scale.