Government told that ending UK’s climate emissions is ‘affordable’

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has today set out details of how the UK can virtually rid itself of carbon emissions 15 years sooner than currently planned. The government’s advisory committee on climate change in its Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) calculates that by spending less than 1% of GDP a year, polluting emissions can fall by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 level. Just 18 months ago this was the UK’s 2050 goal.

“By the early 2030s, every new car and van, and every replacement boiler must be zero-carbon; by 2035, all UK electricity production will be zero carbon,” the CCC says. However, phasing out gas boilers will mean some households will require government help to install more expensive low-carbon heating systems, the report says.

It is not just new homes that will have to meet Net Zero standards; if the government accepts CCC’s recommendations, every existing home, will have to attain an energy performance certificate rating of at least C. Any that does not have a rating of C or higher will not be allowed to be put on the market after 2028.

The report, which can be read at: comes at a time when carbon emissions from waste disposal are increasing because of the expansion of energy-from-waste incineration plants, threatening plans for the UK to deliver on its net zero commitments by 2050, a coalition of campaigners has warned. The coalition, which includes Extinction Rebellion’s zero waste group, Friends of the Earth, the UK, Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), Greenpeace and John Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, says the expansion of waste incineration is forcing up carbon emissions. The group believes that by 2030 the government’s push to increase incineration of waste will increase CO2 emissions by 10m tonnes a year, mostly from the burning of plastics.

In a recent open letter to the prime minister they called for a law requiring the waste sector to decarbonise by 2035, similar to legislation passed in Scandinavian countries. Rembrandt Koppelaar, an environmental economist and co-author of the open letter, said: “The UK will not be able to deliver on its net zero commitments unless the government intervenes in the waste sector.

“Without a change in government policy, we can expect large-scale expansion of energy-from-waste incineration to lock us into an additional 10m tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by 2030, primarily from the burning of plastics.”

The amount of waste incinerated in the UK increased from 4.9m tonnes in 2014 to 10.8m tonnes in 2017-18 and is set to continue rising. Meanwhile, recycling rates have reached a plateau and the UK is expected to miss its 50% recycling target by the end of this year.

The Guardian newspaper and Greenpeace recently revealed that incineration plants are also three times as likely to be situated in the most deprived and ethnically diverse areas of the UK, raising concerns about the impact on air quality and the health of vulnerable people. Fifty incinerators are planned or in development.

According to The Guardian (16 November), Government figures show that in 2018-19 nearly half (43.8%) of waste collected by local authorities from households in England was burnt, or 11.2m tonnes. This increased from just over 12% a decade earlier, and meant incineration overtook recycling and composting as the largest single municipal waste management method.

The signatories of the letter are calling for:

* a waste and resource sector law that requires net zero carbon by 2035, inclusive of energy-from-waste incineration emissions, in line with targets set by the governments of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden;

*a recycling target of 70% by 2030 under the environment bill, as per the Committee on Climate Change recommendation for meeting the UK carbon budgets and a net zero carbon economy by 2050;

*a circular economy capital investment programme to mobilise infrastructure investment that will support reusing, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling of scrap steel, glass, paper and card, plastics and biowaste.

Commenting on the CCC report Doug Parr, at Greenpeace UK, said: “The CCC may have set out its paths to net zero but we’ll need much more legwork from the government over this parliament to reach it. While some progress has been made recently there remains a yawning gap between our targets over the next decade and action needed to meet them.”

Barry White.






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