Tag Archives: net zero

What’s in a (Net Zero) date?

One of the questions that’s likely to be asked in tonight’s Channel 4 environment leader’s debate is about the target date by which the UK should reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer the government legislated for 2050. In September Liberal Democrat conference voted for our policy paper Tackling the Climate Emergency, which argued for 2045. The Labour conference voted for 2030 (though that’s not in their manifesto). The Green Party has gone for 2030, and Extinction Rebellion campaigns for 2025. 

Against these targets, our policy can look rather cautious. 2045 seems like a long way away; doesn’t that mean that government will do nothing until a few years beforehand and then rush to hit it? I’m sure Lib Dem Voice readers know what’s wrong with that argument – although this was the approach that a Conservative minister genuinely suggested to Ed Davey when we were in government.

Arguing over the net zero target date in isolation is simplistic and misleading. In reality, reaching net zero will require enormous effort, stretching over decades and affecting all sectors of the economy; it’s not something you can leave to the last moment. The real debate we need to have is over how we plan to meet the target; what’s the policy programme that cuts emissions fast where we know how to, and lays the foundations for progress where we don’t yet know the right solutions? And when you start to think about what’s needed for electricity, heating, transport, aviation, industry, farming and land use – and how you persuade people to change the way they live their lives, because it isn’t only about government action – you start to understand why near-term targets like 2025 or 2030 are an unrealisable fantasy.

Liberal Democrats set out, in our policy paper and in the manifesto, how we can make rapid progress in cutting emissions from power generation, through accelerating the uptake of renewables, and in heat in buildings, through a massive energy efficiency programme. Between them we think we can cut UK emissions by more than half over ten years.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 20 Comments
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