Opportunities for farming and energy in net zero emissions transition, say industry bodies

A report this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelled out the challenge of keeping global warming to 1.5ºC; one of its central recommendations is that carbon emissions need to fall to net zero around mid-century.

Portcullis House By Matt Brown

Image: Matt Brown, creative commons licence

Here, the Government has pledged to seek fresh advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on strengthening the UK’s emissions target in the light of the IPCC report.

On Wednesday, an event in Parliament explored what cutting emissions to ‘net zero’ on a timescale compatible with the 1.5ºC target means for the UK.

Commenting, Professor Jim Skea, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said:

“The IPCC report shows that keeping global warming to 1.5ºC is not impossible – but it would require a swift move away from fossil fuels and the attainment of net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally by mid-century, with big cuts in other greenhouse gases too.

“Current emission pledges are not consistent with limiting warming to 1.5ºC, and the UK’s current ambition is no exception. The IPCC report opens up the question as to whether, when and how a net zero target could be set at the national level.

“That’s a question that the Committee on Climate Change should be answering over the coming months, once it has had a formal request from ministers, which is expected to come very shortly.”

Baroness Brown, from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said:

“The UK is already experiencing the sorts of impacts we expect to get worse with climate change, with extreme weather events like the high temperatures we experienced in the summer, and intense rainfall and flooding becoming more frequent. Other parts of the world are already seeing stronger impacts, and this also affects us, for example through perturbing food supply chains and driving climate-related migration. Projections show impacts are going to get worse, hence the rationale for halting climate change by reducing emissions to net zero.

“But as we act to reduce our emissions, we must also adapt to the changes that are happening. In Britain, we are going to have to work harder in preparing for climate impacts. As the Committee has repeatedly highlighted, parts of Britain’s infrastructure are not adequately prepared: many of our homes and hospitals overheat, sections of road and railway line are washed away by coastal storms, and our carrot and potato crops this winter will be significantly reduced by the summer water shortages. We need to be investing now to increase our resilience to the changes that are on their way.”

Ann Jones Vice-Chair, National Federation of Women's Institutes, said:

“The Women’s Institute has a proud 100-year history of campaigning on environmental issues and a long-standing interest in climate change. Along with a broad swathe of civil society, a clear majority of the public and MPs across the political spectrum, we support the adoption of a net zero target for carbon emissions.

“Underpinning the WI’s work on climate change is the ambition to build a well-informed and pro-active society, taking responsibility for our impact on the planet. Climate change remains an area in which women are uniquely placed to make a difference; as consumers, educators and change agents.”

Guy Smith, Vice President, National Farmers Union, said:

“Farmers in Britain and around the world are on the frontline with climate change, as we’ve seen this summer with the heatwave. Seeing the impacts of a changing climate first-hand means that farmers understand the importance of trying to keep our climate system in balance; farming is becoming increasingly difficult as the climate becomes more unpredictable.

“There are also big opportunities for farming in a net zero economy, in managing the land so as to create negative emissions and in providing products such as timber to replace carbon-intensive concrete from construction. As we leave the European Union we have an excellent opportunity to develop British farming expertise in these new technologies.”

Lindsay McQuade, CEO, ScottishPower Renewables, said:

“Since the Climate Change Act was passed a decade ago, the UK has driven down the costs of renewables generation, taking full advantage of the natural resources our country enjoys. We’ve also proven that investing in renewable makes sense for consumers, industry and the environment.

“As we further decarbonise our economy towards 2030 and then onto 2050, there will be opportunities for electricity to make an even greater contribution by powering electric vehicles, heating our homes and enabling our smart, low carbon economy. ScottishPower shares the net zero target of 2050 and welcomes the Government’s commitment to long-term decarbonisation.”

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said:

“The IPCC report has clarified what myself and 130 of my colleagues laid out in a recent letter to the Prime Minister – that the UK has to move to net zero emissions before 2050 to keep our climate in balance.

“Moving to zero emissions has strong public support and, as we have demonstrated in the UK with offshore wind, we have the opportunity to build world-leading industries in the growing low-carbon economy. While we can’t predict exactly how net zero emissions will be achieved in the UK, we must commit now to unleash the might of British innovation – science tells us we cannot wait.”

A series of briefings exploring the implications of the UK adopting a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target is available on the ECIU website.