Net Zero in the UK: 2025 or 2050?

Climate Scientist and ex-Director of the Tyndall Centre Professor Corinne Le Queré together with Philosopher Professor Rupert Read, a founder of the Greenhouse Think Tank and more recently Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, both of UEA, discussed with a University and public audience  when Net Zero should be achieved.

Scientists of the IPCC has shown that to limit global warming the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5C, the world’s Governments and population  need to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.  Extinction Rebellion demand the UK be net zero by 2025.

In June of this year, the UK became the first big economy to pass net zero through Parliament.

Prof. Le Queré spoke about how the UK can achieve Net Zero by 2050, especially in transport, infrastructure, power and industry and land. She highlighted promoting cycling and shared transport instead of every adult owning a car, phasing-out gas boilers with far better home insulation, eating vegetables and less meat and dairy.

Prof. Le Queré points out that it takes time and preparation to do all these changes. “The plans need to be detailed, funding needs to be raised, and costs and efforts needs to be distributed fairly”.

For Prof. Read, we are simply not doing enough. “If we take climate justice and historical responsibility for emissions fairly, if we are serious about wanting to be safe, our targets would be sooner,”

Prof. Read likens the situation to looking through different ends of the telescope. “Are we looking at things from the lense of preserving current lifestyles or are we looking at the end that says we want to survive?”

Aviation emissions were also discussed, very relevant to frequent flying academics. The aviation industry produces 2% of all CO2 emissions and around 80% are from flights of over 1,500 kilometers.

Prof. Read suggested banning all flights apart from emergency purposes. Prof. Le Queré, on the other hand, believes in a “more realistic plan” acknowledging that aviation already exists and is accessible to people worldwide.

Prof. Read argues that consumption emissions should be included in the UK’s national carbon target. Prof. Le Queré highlighted how consumption emissions are difficult to measure. “Even if a textile is produced in India, where did the cotton originally come from?,” she asked, adding that as the world goes Net Zero, consumption emissions will decrease naturally.

Prof. Read concludes, “We need to change what appears realistic. Otherwise, we are finished. Part of being realistic is having ambitious aims in a way that is just. Paris is not enough, we should go further and inspire the world by showing genuine leadership.”

For Prof. Le Queré, it is important that governments act together. “The Paris Agreement is a masterpiece of diplomacy. We need to let it do its work,” she said.


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