UK’s 2050 Carbon Law Requires Bold Plan for Buildings
In a historic move, the United Kingdom in June 2019 passed a legally binding target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. According to research by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the new goal can be reached with a relatively low price tag.
“It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990,” said a May 2019 advisory report. That report mentions electrification of cars, decarbonization of heating systems, carbon capture and storage, and afforestation as key strategies for meeting the 2050 pledge. Individual action, such as eating fewer animal products and setting thermostats no higher than 19ºC (66ºF), will also be required.
Buildings are responsible for more than a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, with residential heating bearing much of the blame, according to a technical report accompanying the advisory report.
The technical report recommends some of the largest and easiest improvements first—namely, energy efficiency and low-carbon heat sources for both residential and non-residential buildings. Second on the list come harder-to-achieve strategies, including a shift to hydrogen fuel for heating in certain applications. Last come what the report calls “speculative” options—costly strategies for decarbonizing the final 10% of housing stock.
Although detailed, the technical report does not lay out a policy path for reaching the 2050 goal. However, it does emphasize that “the retrofit of the 29 million existing homes across the UK must be treated as a national infrastructure priority,” adding, “A fully fledged UK strategy for decarbonized heat must be developed in 2020.”
For more information:
Committee on Climate Change
Published August 6, 2019