Zero Carbon Britain calls for faster emissions reductions in advance of IPCC mitigation report

Leaks from the latest IPCC report from Working Group III, being discussed this week in Berlin suggests it will call for radical emissions reductions globally which will require “large-scale transformations in human societies”. The IPCC will propose a reduction in emissions of 50% (from 2010 levels) by 2030 for developed nations such as the UK.

Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) research from the Centre for Alternative Technology shows how it is possible, and desirable, to reach net zero emissions in the UK by 2030. They will be presenting their work at an event in London (and broadcast online) at 6.30pm, Wed 9th April.


Commenting (ahead of the release of the IPCC report) on why we in the UK might need faster emissions reductions than the IPCC top line figure of 50% by 2030, Alice Hooker-Stroud, Zero Carbon Britain research coordinator says :

“Any greenhouse gas we put into the atmosphere from now on risks people’s lives and happiness as well as ecosystems. It isn’t yet clear how likely these levels of emissions would be to increase temperatures by more than two degrees in the latest model, or how the IPCC have divided the responsibility for cutting emissions between rich and poorer nations. Both of these things are important moral questions relating to climate mitigation which the report will have to make a judgement on.

What is clear is that radical action is necessary. Our judgement is that as a rich nation with a long history of high emissions and therefore particular responsibility for the climate problem, we should be doing everything we possibly can to limit climate change impacts around the globe, remembering that all future emissions carry a risk.”

Zero Carbon Britain is a rigorous energy scenario which demonstrates that achieving net zero emissions in the UK by 2030 is technically possible using only current technology, while maintaining a modern standard of living.

The in-depth research, which included modelling hourly energy production and consumption data over a ten year period, shows that net zero emissions are possible using a combination of reducing energy demand, 100% renewable sources of energy and careful management of land.

The IPCC report shows that implementing these kinds of solutions would have several knock-on benefits for human society and the environment, but that we are currently failing to implement them fast enough. They warn that we are currently on track to overshoot the 2 degrees ‘guardrail’ in global average temperature increase, and would have to consider large-scale carbon-negative technologies if emissions aren’t reduced quickly enough.

Alice argues that it is neither sensible or desirable to rely on uncertain, large-scale, carbon-negative future technologies : “We already have everything we need to act responsibly, and play our part in the global effort to tackle climate change. We shouldn’t be relying on future technologies that may or may not get us out of the problem we all saw coming and knew was avoidable.

“Overshooting the 2 degree ‘guardrail’ would be devastating. I wouldn’t call that a plan at all – its reckless and irresponsible. Smaller scale carbon capture by natural ecosystems could play a role in getting the UK to net zero emissions, but we have to respect that there are limits to these systems. There are so many other options for producing low carbon energy and reducing consumption, and there are benefits from choosing to do so.”

Rapidly reducing emissions can’t rely on any single technology. It requires big cultural changes including potential changes to diets, transport patterns and energy consumption. The Zero Carbon Britain scenario includes reducing the amount of meat and dairy in our diet to allow for more provision of food from UK sources, all biomass for energy to be grown sustainably in the UK, and expansion of natural ecosystems for carbon capture.

Yet most of these actions required to reduce emissions were highlighted as having multiple benefits in the IPCC Working Group II summary report released last week: “Examples of actions [to mitigate climate change] with co-benefits include (i) improved energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources, leading to reduced emissions of health-damaging climate-altering air pollutants; (ii) reduced energy and water consumption in urban areas through greening cities and recycling water; (iii) sustainable agriculture and forestry; and (iv) protection of ecosystems for carbon storage and other ecosystem services.”

Alice concludes on the scale of the transformation necessary: “Large changes will be necessary to act on climate change, but the solutions are here. We can make these changes now, or have changes imposed upon us from a changed climate for generations to come: its our choice.”



Zero Carbon Britain Event 9th April: Join us online here!

ZCB FBOn the 9th April, the Zero Carbon Britain team from CAT will be hosting an exciting evening event to present their latest research and practical solutions for a zero carbon future. We’ll be joined by Duncan Clark, Owen Jones and the latest from the IPCC meeting in Berlin that week.

Details and registration here:

The event will take place in London between 6.30 and 8pm (with drinks and informal discussion until 9pm), but will also be broadcast online for all of those who’d like to take part from elsewhere.

How to join the online event

We’ll be broadcasting it live here, so simply make sure you’ve got internet signal and come back here for 6.30pm on 9th April!

Social media

Slides from the event:

Input from twitter will appear in this box below. Use the hashtag #ZCB or tweet @centre_alt_tech to propose questions for the panel and join the discussion.

Hosting a screening

Some people are hosting ‘screenings’ in their area, which is absolutely great! If you’d like to do that too – even if it’s just your friends and family – please go for it!

There are no issues about licensing or anything to worry about – and if you’d like a number of hard copies of the ZCB report to do in a ‘sale or return’ fashion we can sort that out too.

For more information or any questions, please get in touch with Danielle at

Please don’t forget to spread the message to your friends and networks. Thanks!

ZCBlog: Zero Carbon Britain Event, Wed 9th April, London

On the 9th April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be finalising their latest report on managing climate change and the emissions reductions needed to ensure a stable climate future.

But can we cut emissions on time? And what would it look like here in the UK?

Join the Zero Carbon Britain team for an evening of practical solutions, safe futures and thinking big as they present their latest research on creating a zero emissions modern society, using only currently available technology.

Date: Wednesday 9th April 2014

Time: 18.30 – 20.00, followed by drinks and discussion until 21.30

Venue: St John’s Waterloo, London, SE1 8TY and live broadcast on the web

Register here:

‘Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future’ is the flagship research project from the Centre for Alternative Technology. The latest report contains the most detailed work to date on ‘keeping the lights on’ in a 100% renewable energy system, and feeding ourselves well on a healthy, low-carbon diet.

Chaired by Owen Jones (columnist, commentator and author of ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’) with an introduction and scene-setter from Duncan Clark (Guardian environment consultant editor, director at Kiln and author of ‘The Burning Question’), researchers Tobi Kellner and Alice Hooker-Stround will present their work, and how we can use this.

Presentations and speakers will be followed by Q&A and informal discussion. A bar and light snacks will be available throughout the evening.

This event will be broadcast live for all those unable to attend in person.

Register here to attend the event or receive the livestream link.

If we cannot imagine the solution, we will surely stay stuck in the problem. Please join us for what promises to be an informative and inspiring evening.

ZCBlog: The IPCC report and the opportunity for action

Today sees the much anticipated release of the ‘Fifth Assessment Report’ from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Set up in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme, the IPCC presents the most up to date scientific information to policy makers, and is the international authority on climate change.

A draft report for policy makers was leaked weeks ahead, prompting the usual explosion of bile from the sceptics, and a breath-drawing cautionary tale of inaction for the rest of us.

While the consensus for action remains unchanged, the certainty with which climate change can be attributed to human activity and greenhouse gases in the latest report has risen from 90 to 95%. It prompted Tony Blair to remind us no ‘serious person’ would doubt man made climate change, and the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, to say “doubters don’t have a problem with climate change, they have a problem with science.”

The impacts of man-made warming include warming of the ocean, melting snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changing of climate extremes.

Wind and ocean currents around the world. CC image courtesy of NASA Goddard on Flickr

The report makes the link between global warming and extreme weather events such as heatwaves with greater certainty, and considers the likely event of exceeding the internationally recognised threshold of 2 degrees for ‘dangerous’ climatic change if more urgent action isn’t taken. Life above 2 degrees involves more droughts, extinctions, floods and rising seas that could swamp coastal regions and entire island nations. The coral reefs will go.

The report considers possible temperature increases of 4.8 degrees by the end of the century, with serious consequences for the world as we know it, and the generation we leave to face it.

The report also states that rapid emissions reductions would keep us within safe limits, and has been accompanied by rallying cries for action from concerned parties from politicians to journalists to NGOs. And that’s where Zero Carbon Britain comes in.


Will IPCC help us rise to the challenge?


The conclusions of the IPCC report are not new or unexpected, and will serve to reaffirm and underline what many of us already understood about the seriousness of climate change and urgent need for action.

We know that sceptics and nay-says will not be deterred or convinced by fact or any degree of certainty. Denying man-made climate change now is equivalent to saying ‘smoking doesn’t cause cancer’. We also know that presenting people with the imminent catastrophe that awaits them has done little to rally public action and sentiment about climate change. Indeed, it seems to have done the opposite.

What is becoming increasingly clear however, is that as a population we are very supportive of renewable energy (a recent survey from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) found 76 per cent of people are supportive). There is a mounting body of evidence showing the talking about positive solutions is an effective way to engage the public on climate change, and that those who have experienced impacts of climate change already are more willing to change their behaviour.

As more and more people are affected by climate change and unusual weather patterns and events, it’s crucial that we proactively communicate the adaptive and mitigative solutions.

Fortunately, our understanding of the solutions, and examples of them coming to life, are on the increase all around us.

The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain project demonstrates a technically robust future scenario where we have rapidly reduced our emissions to net zero – in line with the science – using only technology available today.

Talking about Zero Carbon Britain

It shows that by managing our energy use and energy generation we can cut emissions, provide a safe, sustainable energy supply for the UK and create 1.5 million regionally distributed jobs.

By considering land use in our emissions reduction, there are further opportunities to provide healthy, low carbon diets on UK soil, increase key ecosystem indicators, as well as to improve our resilience to weather changes we’re already experiencing, such as heatwaves or increased flooding.

The aim of the Zero Carbon Britain project is to demonstrate that integrated and technically feasible solutions to the climate problem do exist, and inspire and support the action required to get us there.

We hope the IPCC report is a powerful reminder of the challenge we face, prompting us to reach for the solutions available, rather than burying our heads further in the sand. We know we can create the positive future we need, now we need to get on with it.

Green New Deal: a new report and the route to zero carbon Britain?

Today sees the launch of the latest report from the Green New Deal Group: A National Plan for the UK, and a strategy to kick-start the nation into the age of the ‘Green New Deal’.

Unveiled on the 5th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse, the plan is designed to fundamentally transform a still-broken financial system and reduce the deficit, while revamping the UK’s aging infrastructure to meet a range of environmental and social challenges.

Rising to the challenges of climate change is a central tenet of the report, and it draws heavily on the work of the latest report from the Centre for Alternative Technology – Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future (ZCB).

The proposed £50 billion-a-year programme boosts real economic activity and provides quality jobs across the country by galvanizing key infrastructure projects and initiatives needed to reach zero emissions. These include:

  • A nationwide project to increase energy-efficiency in every home, including highly insulated and efficent new builds. As the ‘Power Down’ (pp. 38 – 53) chapter in ZCB outlines, this is a key initiative capable of reducing energy use across our building stock by 60%. 
  • The mass deployment of renewable technologies. A workable energy mix for renewables, including detailed variability management, is presented in the ‘Power Up’ section of ZCB (pp. 54 – 72).
  • Investing in a low carbon travel infrastructure instead of HS2. Again, the enormous potential emissions reductions linked to transport through behaviour, efficiency and fuel mix changes are represented in ZCB (pp. 47 – 53). 
  • Ensuring efficient resource use by developing resource and waste recovery. The emissions gains of managing waste efficiently, and its role in supporting a carbon-neutral energy system are outlined in the ZCB ‘Waste’ chapter (pp. 76 – 80).


The Zero Carbon Britain report estimated that rapid decarbonisaton in the UK could generate 1.5 million regionally distributed jobs across multiple sectors, and is a key opportunity

Where the ZCB report provides an important future scenario of what a net zero emissions UK could look like, ‘Green New Deal: A National Plan for the UK’ report provides a critical framework for how we might arrive here.

The report identifies the Green New Deal would be financed through a range of equally progressive measures, including:

  • Tackling tax evasion and avoidance;
  • A programme of Green Quantitative Easing (QE);
  • Ensuring banks that were bailed out by the taxpayer also invest in such a programme at low, sustainable rates of interest;
  • Encouragement for pension funds and other institutional investors to invest in the Green New Deal;
  • Buying out the private finance initiative (PFI) debt using Green QE and redirecting some of the otherwise huge repayments into funding green infrastructure.


The report also considers the ‘multiplier effect’, and the benefits to the public purse of wholesale investment in jobs, including tax-receipts and spending power across the population.

‘Green New Deal: A National Plan for the UK’ makes a compelling and uplifting read; spelling out some of the critical mechanisms we have available to make a zero carbon Britain a reality, right here, right now.

The report can be downloaded free here.

More information about our ZCB report can be found here.