Britain needs to drastically reduce meat and dairy products consumption and reduce air travel to reach its net zero emissions target by 2050, according to a new report.
The UK would cut meat consumption by half, save 19 million tons of CO2 emissions, says a government-backed study of non-profit Energy Systems Catapult.
This can be compared with 8 million tonnes of saved carbon if the consumption of beef, lamb and dairy products were reduced by only one fifth, as proposed by the Committee on Climate Change last year.
The UK will also have to plant a forest ‘twice the size of Birmingham’ – around 50,000 hectares – and reduce the demand for air travel by around 80 percent to achieve its ‘climate neutral’ target.
It will also have to replace biomass-emitting fuel sources with biomass and invest in hydrogen and advanced nuclear technologies.
Although the measures may sound harsh, the new report adds that it is possible to achieve net zero carbon – an objective announced last year to offset UK-generated carbon emissions by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere .
Achieving a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 would require innovation in low-carbon technology and reduced the adoption of significant land use and lifestyle changes, including the production of dairy cattle and beef cattle.
The Innovation to Net Zero report from the government-funded ESC research group has modeled hundreds of potential paths to achieve the UK’s CO2 neutral target.
“Last year the UK became the first major economy in the world to commit itself to a ‘net zero’ emissions target by 2050,” said Scott Milne, head of insights at Energy Systems Catapult.
“Now we have modeled hundreds of potential paths for the first time to get to zero by 2050, to raise and lower various technologies and behavioral changes – to understand the different combinations, interactions and tradeoffs of competing decarbonization options – the most cost-optimized approaches.
Reduced aviation demand – as low as 20 percent of what it is today – may also be needed to meet emissions targets, depending on the success of low-carbon deployment
“What stands out, however, is – regardless of the path the UK is following – innovation, investment and incentives for low-carbon technology, land use and lifestyle are essential to achieve net zero.
“And there are huge economic opportunities for the UK to lead the world in these areas.”
Although the public seems willing to apply new technologies such as low-carbon heating and electric cars, changes in diet and flight habits “provoke a more resistant and emotional response,” report says.
Meat and holidays are a big part of the life of the average British and therefore “serious social commitment” is needed to change attitudes and achieve emission targets.
“Halving meat consumption is our” stretch assumption “- we know it would help reduce emissions and be good for people’s health, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen, Milne told MailOnline.
Biomass crops that are regularly harvested for energy – such as this bio-energy plant with wood fuel storage – is essential for achieving net zero targets
“We have emphasized the need for innovation throughout the economy, and this definitely includes the food system.”
Milne said that companies in the supply chain should look for ways to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the food products that people want to buy.
“Non-meat alternatives are an aspect of this, but they also transform farming methods to reduce the impact of livestock where it does,” he said.
In addition to turning Britons into vegetable food, a measure to tackle emissions would be to limit the growth in air travel demand to just 20 percent of what it is today in 2050.
But even if the demand for aviation and meat were eliminated by 2050 and the technology deployment increased to even more ambitious rates, net zero could only be brought to 2045.
Increasing biomass – organic waste as a form of energy – will also be crucial for maintaining a UK population that will grow by 5 million to 71.5 million in 2050 – a growth that will be concentrated in the southeast of England.
Biomass crops that are regularly harvested for energy will offer more intensive carbon removal in the shift of fossil fuels as an energy source.
Elsewhere in the report, ESC said that hydrogen may need to grow to levels equivalent to current electricity production up to 300 terawatt hours – a trillion watts for an hour – per year for industry, heat and heavy transport.
ESC urges the government to invest in carbon capture, hydrogen and advanced nuclear technologies, since electricity production must double to achieve the proposed goal, as well as the ambitious targets for food and aviation.
The report also recommended a number of policy reforms to help the government pursue climate neutrality, including low-carbon economic incentives and electricity market reforms and energy planning in the local area.
WHAT ARE THE UK PLANS FOR ‘NET ZERO’ CARBON EMISSIONS?
The plans for the UK to become “carbon neutral” by 2050 were released by the government of Theresa May on June 12, 2019.
However, experts are concerned about how the proposals will work.
The report undertakes to ensure that UK-generated emissions are offset by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
There are two main ways to achieve this – by planting more trees and by installing carbon capture technology at the source of the pollution.
Some critics are concerned that this first option will be used by the government to export CO2 compensation to other countries.
Thanks to international carbon credits, countries can continue to emit carbon while paying for trees planted elsewhere and balancing their emissions.
Some claim that the scheme is a way for developed countries to evade their environmental obligations by transferring them to poor and developing countries.