“This is the right level of climate ambition. This is not a watering down of Labour’s climate ambition. The plan delivers on the Labour Green New Deal conference motion to put the UK on a pathway to zero carbon by 2030. This means that by 2030, the UK will have taken every possible step to ensure zero carbon energy during an appropriate point in the 2030’s.Tom Bailey
I’m Tom Bailey, an energy and climate professional with 13 years of experience. I’ve spent the last 18 months working with others across the industry to outline a credible foundation for Labour’s climate policy. Here’s why.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) states that ‘the next few years are probably the most important in our history’. Climate change is fast making the earth uninhabitable. We knew this ten years ago. We also knew perfectly well what was needed to stop it. Yet the last decade has seen limited meaningful action in the UK and around much of the world to prevent the climate crisis. If we repeat this over the following decade, catastrophic climate change is a done deal. Given the difference in how the UK parties plan to address climate change, this election could be the most important in modern history.
The UK’s biggest source of emissions is energy (electricity and heating), and so this must be decarbonised as fast as possible. This is why I mobilised a group of energy and climate professionals. Our mission was to clearly outline for the Labour Party – once and for all – what steps we must take to make decarbonisation a reality. We have spent the last 18 months developing a detailed technical plan, titled ‘Thirty by 2030’ for the specific thirty recommendations it includes. It was launched with Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, in late October this year.
We have clarity on what action is needed right now. The thirty recommendations are radical but specific and they must begin implementation immediately if we are to stop climate change (click here to see more details on the recommendations.) They can be briefly summarised as:
- Implement a UK-wide programme of upgrading all existing buildings within 10 years and enact strict standards for new buildings, to significantly reduce energy wastage.
- Shift to low-carbon heating for 50% of the UK’s heat by 2030, more than a twelve-fold increase in 10 years.
- Embark on a vast expansion of offshore and onshore wind and solar power, pushing renewable and low-carbon electricity to 90% by 2030.
- Significant investment in research and development for; marine energy, renewable or low-carbon hydrogen for heating and energy storage as well as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for some heavy industries. This will mean that by the late 2020s these emerging technologies can be deployed, alongside current technologies such as nuclear, to the appropriate scale.
- Ensure the lights will stay on and supply and demand can be balanced, with the right updates to infrastructure and the development of whole energy-system approach.
This will work. Having inputted into developing the plan, a group of the UK’s climate experts from leading universities and institutions “acknowledge that these thirty recommendations represent the upper limit of technical feasibility, but should be seen as appropriate to the scale of the climate emergency we find ourselves in.” The experts agree this is possible.
If these recommendations are implemented immediately, the UK could be on track to deliver a 77% reduction in energy emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels (81% relative to 1990). This is more than the global average of 45% that the IPCC says is necessary. This would make the UK not only a world leader, but sufficiently far ahead to allow a fair transition for all countries of the world. If implementation goes significantly well by the mid 2020s, the UK has the potential to be on track for a zero-carbon energy system in the 2030s.
The benefits far outweigh the costs – this really is a no brainer. Delivering the recommendations by 2030 will bring huge benefit to the prosperity and health of the UK, helping address years of austerity and rising inequality. Some examples include a net benefit of £800 billion across the UK economy by 2030 and 850,000 new jobs generated across the green energy sector. The jobs will be distributed throughout all regions of the UK. Households will be better off as a result, with energy bills not needing to increase to pay for changes. For every £1 invested by the UK government, £2 will be returned in increased tax revenue, helping balance the national accounts. In addition, burning fewer fossil fuels will result in around 6,000 avoided deaths due to improved air quality. Improving the UK housing stock by 2030 could avoid 560,000 cases of asthma from damp and cold.
By implementing the thirty recommendations, the UK could lead the world to climate safety. Next year, the UK hosts the most important climate negotiations in history: the UN’s COP26. Each nation will agree what it can action to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. The UK as host will only be able to demand action if doing so ourselves and so we have a global duty to do so. Adopting the thirty recommendations now could change the future for all humanity.
This is the right level of climate ambition. This is not a watering down of Labour’s climate ambition. The plan delivers on the Labour Green New Deal conference motion to put the UK on a pathway to zero carbon by 2030. This means that by 2030, the UK will have taken every possible step to ensure zero carbon energy during an appropriate point in the 2030’s. Exactly when this will be depends on how successfully the thirty recommendationsare implemented.
It can be done but it demands a strong British national effort. Recognising the common good for our families, country, species and planet, the urgent need for action unites us all. This shared priority can bring our country together. Delivering the thirty recommendations will require updates to almost every building and national infrastructure system, alongside changes for every person, business and institution in just 10 years. These changes really are radical, but also not rocket science. The UK must adopt the thirty recommendations, and we must keep calm and carry on until they are delivered.
These changes aren’t about sacrifices. They are gains. Gains for a healthy planet and future. It’s make or break time.