The government’s approach to climate change, focused on expanding renewables and phasing out coal, will not cut nearly enough carbon to meet the UK’s net zero goal, according to a new report by independent think-tank the Green Alliance.
Sectors like transport, buildings and industry are way behind on having effective carbon cutting strategies, says the report, and, together, they are only on course to deliver about 10% of the emissions savings they need to over the next 12 years.
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank with a 40-year track record of working with influential leaders from the NGO, business, academic and political communities.
Its new report says that reducing energy demand must be central to UK energy policy to cut carbon at the scale necessary. And the research shows that, far from being a hair shirt approach, this will benefit people and businesses financially, improve public health, and create an economy fit for the future.
Focusing only on energy supply in key sectors like transport, building and industry ignores the significant impact of high demand, says the report, not only on carbon emissions but also on everyday lives.
Based on research by CREDS, a collaboration of leading academics across 15 UK universities, the study concludes that all government departments should work on three fronts now to address energy demand:
Avoid unnecessary energy use: This would include reducing dependence on cars, and introducing new infrastructure or business models that reduce the need for materials and products, including services that replace ownership of cars or appliances.
Improve technical energy efficiency: Technical solutions already exist to reduce energy waste and loss by buildings, transport and products. These include better insulation and sensor controls in buildings so they need less heating or cooling and industrial processes that minimise energy use, and use fewer resources to make the same products.
Flex energy demand: Aligning demand better with supply, for instance by introducing new ‘time of use’ tariffs, would make the most of intermittent renewable energy sources and reduce the need for fossil fuel back up supply.
Professor Nick Eyre, CREDS director, said: “Going to the effort of decarbonising all of the energy we currently use is not a sensible strategy to bring about a sustainable energy system unless we also take steps to cut demand. This needs to be a dominant part of energy system change.”
Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: “The government’s approach to energy is self defeating. It ignores half of the equation and denies people considerable benefits. Not only would reducing demand help to reach carbon reduction targets earlier, it would also reduce infrastructure costs and benefit everyone – through cleaner air, more comfortable homes and healthier lives.”