This week Parliament has legislated for a new decarbonisation target of 'Net Zero' by 2050. This means that by then, the UK will have decarbonised compltetely in most sectors of our economy and will be fully offsetting the carbon produced in sectors like aviation and agriculture where technology is unlikely to allow us to completely avoid the production of some greenhouse gases. In passing this legislation, the UK is the first major economy in the world to commit to Net Zero and to therefore meet the recommendation of the International Panel on Climate Change on how to ensure global temperature rises no more than 1.5 degrees centigrade.
The scale of challenge is enormous. At the moment millions of us drive cars with internal combustion engines, heat our homes with gas or oil, and use electricity produced often from gas and sometimes even coal. Decarbonising our electricity supply is arguably the easiest part of the equation; we've done most of it and the technology is already available and affordable. Decarbonising transport will be the next easiest. Again, the technology exists and prices and coming down quickly as more and more car manufacturers enter the market with electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The data shows more and more people are looking at EVs when changing their car attracted by the significantly lower running costs as much as any desire to save the planet.
Decarbonising heat, however, will be our biggest challenge. The technologies already exist - heat pumps or hydrogen boilers will do the job but they're still expensive and people are reluctant to do things in their home especially as heat pumps require very high levels of energy efficiency and this can require changes to the fabric of the building. However we must persuade people that this is worth doing because a million homes a year need to be decarbonised if we're to hit our 2050 target.
The challenge is enormous but we've accepted it and we must get on with it quickly.