The UK should cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly four-fifths by 2035, climate advisers have said, signalling major changes to home heating, cars and diets.
Experts said sales of gas boilers should be halted by 2033, new fossil-fuelled car sales – including hybrids – should end in 2032, and people should be encouraged to cut the amount of meat and dairy they eat by a fifth in the next decade.
The Committee on Climate Change says the moves are among those needed to meet its recommended target for the UK to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 on 1990 levels, as part of the sixth “carbon budget” covering climate action in 2033-37.
The five-yearly budgets aim to help the UK meet the long term legally-binding goal to bring climate pollution down to zero overall or “net zero” by mid century, as part of efforts to prevent dangerous climate change.
It represents a major increase in ambition in UK climate efforts, with the new 2035 target almost as tough as the previous long term goal of 80% cuts by 2050, which was in place before the net zero law was passed in June 2019.
But the committee’s chairman Lord Deben said it was “realistic and affordable” as well as ambitious, and provided a chance to jump-start the UK’s economic recovery after the pandemic.
Measures to meet the climate goals include making the electricity system zero carbon by 2035, with offshore wind playing a major role, producing hydrogen to replace gas, creating new woodlands, curbing the growth in flying and making homes greener.
There can be no increase in UK airport capacity, so any expansion such as at Heathrow must be balanced by reductions in capacity elsewhere in the UK, the report said.
The committee also wants to see more action to restore UK peatlands to help store carbon, and Lord Deben called for an immediate ban on sales of horticultural peat, saying it was “ridiculous” it was still on sale.
Investment of £50 billion a year by 2030 will be required, most of which will come from the private sector.
But over time, savings in fuel costs, including less gas for power and heating and petrol for cars, will offset most of the needed investment.
The report also said the Treasury is likely to have to double funding for green measures to £9-12 billion a year in 2030.
On 12 December 2015, nations clinched the historic #ParisAgreement to tackle climate change. Five years later, on 12 December 2020, leaders across government, business and civil society with gather for the Climate Ambition Summit 2020: https://t.co/BG3W8vW2mrpic.twitter.com/psxvY5JauG
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) December 7, 2020
The costs of shifting the UK to a low carbon economy has fallen significantly, analysis by the advisory committee suggests, and will now cost less than 1% of economic output, or GDP, through the next 30 years.
Plans to make the UK’s homes greener can be implemented without large increases on energy bills, while motorists could see the costs of driving fall as they shift to electric cars, the report said.
Hundreds of thousands of Jobs could be created in sectors such as insulation, cutting emissions can improve health and – as the world moves to a low carbon economy – there will be new export opportunities, it said.
But the shift has to be fair, so policies must be designed to make sure the costs do not fall on those least able to pay, and there needs to be training to help workers move from fossil fuel sectors to greener industries.
95% of the food we eat comes from our soils. Healthy soils store carbon, helping to combat climate change. And they help us adapt to climate change (@FAO video for #WorldSoilDay) pic.twitter.com/TolMzYW4wI
— UN Climate Change (@UNFCCC) December 7, 2020
Lord Deben said the investments to cut carbon were what was needed to get out of the recessional effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have to do it to protect the planet, but we are having to do it in order to renew our own economy, and we can do it at a price that is manifestly reasonable.
“It will be the private sector that will do much of the investment, but it will be the Government that will set the tone,” he said.
He warned the Government had to act now, rather than in a few years’ time, setting out detailed steps based on the recommendations in the report.
It will help the UK meet its commitments to cut emissions under the international Paris Agreement, and will also provide leadership to other countries to increase their ambition on climate change in the run-up to key UN talks being held in Glasgow next year, the committee said.
The world is already at 1C of warming, causing heatwaves, wildfires, storms and flooding, and countries have to do much more to bring emissions to net zero and avoid even more dangerous temperature rises.
Committee chief executive Chris Stark said the goal to hit net zero in the UK by 2050 was “feasible, we think it can be done”, but added: “It’s a massive task overall to pull off, which rests especially on action in the next 10 years.”
Clara Goldsmith, campaigns director for The Climate Coalition of more than 140 organisations ranging from the National Trust to the Women’s Institute and RSPB, said the plans could transform society and create green jobs.
“The Government must accept this advice and unleash a decade of ambitious action to get on track to net-zero and give a turbo boost to our economic recovery.
“This is the leadership the UK must show ahead of the decisive UN climate summit we are hosting next year,” she urged.
Shadow climate change minister Matthew Pennycook said: “We urge the Government to legislate for the sixth carbon budget as soon as possible and urgently bring forward a comprehensive net zero strategy with fairness at its heart.”