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< Return to nature-based solutions in the news

Absolute Zero Report

March 9, 2020
News item image The authors suggest that both emissions and energy use should decrease in the UK up until ~2050; whilst emissions must remain low, energy use can increase once we have the technology to produce it whilst maintaining net-zero emissions overall. This figure shows that aviation, shipping and fossil fuel use would all have to cease completely before alternative technologies are sufficiently advanced to run these industries without releasing emissions.

This report summarises actions required to deliver net-zero emissions in the UK by 2050, without the emergence of not-guaranteed new technologies. The authors calculated that this would require much more drastic actions than suggested by government bodies such as the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). For example, all airports would need to be closed between 2030 and 2050, with the potential for re-opening airports with carbon-neutral power sources when they become available (electricity, or hydrogen produced using renewable energy).

The authors also emphasise that nature provides our only existing large-scale method for carbon capture, and state that restoration of forests is a priority for a net-zero world. In order to free-up more land for creating forests and other natural habitats, we will need to reduce the area of farmland. This can most easily be done by reducing meat consumption. Indeed, the report concludes that for the UK to have net-zero emissions, all beef and lamb would need to be phased out, compared to the CCC’s suggestion of a 50% reduction in consumption of beef, lamb and dairy products by 2050.

The report’s central message is the need to radically cut down on high-emission activities, at least until low-emission alternatives are developed. However they highlight that the activities that people enjoy the most are sports, social life and eating, which can all be done whilst having a low carbon footprint.

Since it is unlikely that these huge reductions in consumption will happen voluntarily, we are left with two major options: enforce changes in consumption, or develop the technologies that this report assumes we will not have. The latter means pushing R&D in Carbon Capture and Storage; this can be achieved by governments mandating that fossil fuel companies must start capturing a certain percentage of their CO2 emissions, and ramp this percentage up year-on-year. This technology is not ‘impossible’ as some claim, but requires investment in order to make it possible on the scales we require to stop global warming.

Read the full report, from UK Fires.