thenextwave

Getting to zero carbon in 20 years

Posted in climate change, emerging issues, energy, environment, reports, sustainability by Andrew Curry on 10 July, 2007

No sooner have I blogged about the challenge of reducing carbon quickly than along comes a report from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales which sets out how to do it in two decades, which may be about all the time we have if we are to escape temperature increases of more than two degrees.

Zerocarbonbritain is described as ‘an alternative energy strategy’, and the CAT has some form in this area, having written an alternative energy strategy 30 years ago, just after the Centre opened, when despite the oil shocks of the early 70s such phenomenon were fairly weak signals of future change.

The report – which describes itself as “an attempt to map the unthinkable” – is downloadable as a well-designed PDF. A quick scan of the main points:

  • The approach is based on the “contract and converge” model of carbon reduction developed by Aubrey Meyer, where the emissions are head are reduced even as variations between different countries are reduced. Total Energy Quotas (TEQs) are given free to households but sold to businesses.
  • It assumes no new technologies than those which are currently known. Some are developed significantly, though – especially in the area of renewable energy.
  • It argues that behavioural shifts can be driven by market signals – but that to do this requires that “economic drivers must be transformed from those of today, where the primary constraints are financial, to an economy in which carbon becomes the overriding constraint. With such a shift, the most economically effective option is also that with the lowest embodied emissions. budget.” Hence the TEQs.
  • Such a strategy would be “challenging”, because “”The necessary rate of change will require rapid decision making and an urgent sense of common purpose, more akin to that which pertained during World War 2 than in any period since.”
  • To succeed, the strategy reckons that 2027 Britain would consume half as much energy as it does today. A section called “powering down” reviews how this is achieved. One impact is a lot less travel. Technology would be used to manage domestic energy use. Buildings will need to be a lot more energy efficient. Both public and private sector organisations would be incentivised to take carbon out of their processes through payment for the Total Energy Quotas (TEQs).
  • The programme needs a “vastly expanded” R&D programme, “strong investment in new skills and training”, and “a national public awareness programme”.
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