U.K. Urged by Adviser to Devise Strategy to Suck Carbon From Air

  • Committee on Climate Change calls for heating, vehicles plan
  • Brexit doesn’t affect U.K. greenhouse gas targets: committee

The U.K. should develop strategies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to meet its obligations under the first internationally binding agreement to fight global warming, the government’s climate change adviser said.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union doesn’t affect its climate targets, which are enshrined in national law, the Committee on Climate Change said on Thursday in a set of three reports laying out action the government should take. 

Without new policies to cut greenhouse gases from cars and buildings, the government will only deliver half the emissions cuts needed to meet its fifth “carbon budget,” limiting emissions from 2028 through 2032, it said. It recommended a longer-term strategy to achieve the goal of the new climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, that by the end of the century the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere should compensate for emissions.

The committee expects the government to produce plans to meet both the fourth and fifth five-year carbon budgets by February, Chairman John Gummer, a member of the House of Lords, told reporters in London.

‘Crunch Time’

“The crunch time is here: they have to produce by law a program for reaching the budgets which are now statutorily there,” he said. Ministers “have accepted those budgets. Parliament has accepted those budgets; they now have to do the other bit of it which is to show how they’re going to reach those budgets.”

The committee’s recommendations are important because it was set up under the 2008 Climate Change Act to guide government policy on fighting global warming. Thursday’s reports are entitled “Implications of Brexit for U.K. Climate Policy,” “U.K. Climate Action Following the Paris Agreement” and “Meeting Carbon Budgets -- Next Steps for U.K. Heat Policy.”

The main conclusion from the Brexit paper was that “existing commitments need strong new policies that set a clearer direction across the economy, irrespective of Brexit.” It advised preserving and strengthening some policy previously set at EU level, including remaining in or replicating the bloc’s emissions trading program.

Buildings and Vehicles

The paper on heat advised the government to examine the merits of insulation programs, new building codes, heat pumps and using hydrogen for heating -- a policy that would also require incentives for carbon capture and storage technology.

Britain aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 57 percent in the four decades through to 2030 under the fifth carbon budget. Emissions are already more than 35 percent down since 1990, but existing policies will only get halfway to the 2030 target from current levels, according to the committee. In order to hit the goal, it urged ministers to slash emissions from buildings and vehicles, using technologies including insulation, hydrogen for heating, biogas and biofuels for transportation.

Ministers were also advised to determine a strategy to reach the longer-term goals of the Paris agreement, which was agreed in December by 195 nations and will enter force next month.

“It’s quite likely we’re going to need some kind of combination of greenhouse gas removal technologies to be in place to remove some of the CO2 to offset some of the emissions that are still taking place,” the committee’s chief executive officer, Matthew Bell, told reporters. “There’s a whole spectrum to that. One end of the spectrum are trees. At the other end of the spectrum are a range of more technological solutions to literally suck greenhouse gases out of the air.”

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