CCC’s net zero target: the industry responds

Now is the right time to set a ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gas emissions target, says the Committee on Climate Change in its new report. It wants to set a 2050 target for the UK overall, with a  target for Scotland to reach that level by 2045.  It says Wales  should adopt a target for a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The costs are manageable within the current cost envelope (but must be fairly distributed) and there would be industrial and health benefits, the CCC said.

The industry responds:

Nick Molho, executive director, Aldersgate Group: “The CCC’s advice provides powerful analytical backing for the growing calls to update our 2050 target to deliver the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal. Setting a net zero target without delay is essential to provide investment clarity for the new business models and high capital cost infrastructure required to drive down emissions. To put the UK on a credible path to net zero, the government should accelerate its efforts to meet existing carbon budgets in areas such as buildings and transport and should ensure that a net zero target is accompanied by industry-led decarbonisation roadmaps, as has been done in Sweden.”

Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer, Aviva Investors: “The CCC’s report makes a significant contribution, showing that a net zero economy is necessary, feasible and desirable. We urge the government to accept the CCC’s recommendations and set out a comprehensive plan to raise the investment needed to deliver the net zero target. The forthcoming Green Finance Strategy presents a key opportunity for this and we urge the government to bring forward an ambitious package that includes fiscal and regulatory levers to ensure finance flows are consistent with a net zero economy and ensures the UK leads the world in green finance.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive, Renewable Energy Association: “This report blazes a trail for the UK to assert itself as a leader in socially responsible new industries and the government should grab it with both hands. We strongly support the view of the Committee that the solution to net zero greenhouse gasses by 2050 lies in the mass deployment of renewable technologies supported by robust, long-term and investible policies.

“…A policy gap, however, now exists to bring forward new power generation technologies in the 2020’s. Direction is required from Government in relation to heat and carbon capture and storage. In transport, more can be done to decarbonise the fuel mix, facilitate EV deployment, and ensure strategic charging infrastructure is delivered. Gas and electricity networks also need to be fully on board with this transition and their regulated profit base should reflect progress on decarbonisation.

Emma Pinchbeck, deputy chief executive,  RenewableUK:  “This report could trigger a giant leap forward in UK emissions reduction – action matched to the real dangers of climate change. The advisors at the Committee on Climate Change say that a net zero economy by 2050 is possible – but only if we put a rocket under our renewables ambition.

“To achieve net zero, we have to put the pedal to the metal on our world-leading wind industry. The report suggests a ten-fold increase in offshore wind and action to reverse the decline of onshore wind. It also links the speed of renewables growth to driving other emissions reduction: making best use of electric vehicles or green homes needs more wind”

“We can’t keep playing politics if we’re going to tackle climate change. Nor can we rely on a net zero target alone. Delayed policy action over the last twenty years has already made the challenge harder and cuts to emissions steeper. Government needs to act now, and we have a world-leading renewables industry which can help them deliver.”


Tim Rotheray, director, ADE: “More decentralised energy in the UK will support the country’s move to net zero, and more quickly than people might think….

“UK policy making now needs to match the ambitions of the CCC’s rallying call for decarbonisation. Recent progress needs to be accelerated to achieve this ambition.   The structural change required in businesses, embedding carbon and environment into the heart of business planning, is just as vital in government. Cutting emissions will impact everyone’s lives. This needs public support and that can only be achieved if customers see the benefits. That is why zero carbon policies must be at the heart of every single government department. User-led decentralised energy must be at the heart of delivering a low carbon economy.”


Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary, Prospect“This comprehensive report should be welcomed by everyone who understands the scale of the challenge posed by climate change and the need for urgent action to avert environmental breakdown. There is no route to net zero without a significant increase in nuclear power alongside renewables and the report should act as a challenge to the government to get their flagging new nuclear programme back up and running.

“Net Zero should not come at the expense of workers and we welcome the focus in the report on securing a ‘just transition’ for workers and others who will be affected by the drive for net zero. It is time for the government to get real and set out a comprehensive strategy for delivering on these ambitions and secure our environment in a fair and sustainable way.”


Professor Phil Taylor, head of engineering,  Newcastle University: “Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is necessary, feasible and cost effective but UK Policy is still way off the mark and the foundations are not in place to be able to meet this target,… “To have any hope of achieving the net-zero target we must move on from our obsession about decarbonising electricity and deal with more difficult challenges of decarbonising heating and transport as soon as possible.


Frazer Mackay, UK managing director of water, energy & industry, WSP:  ”WSP welcomes the CCC’s recommendation that government should opt for a Net Zero carbon target by 2050 but questions whether it is bold enough, especially when it looks like we will fail to meet our legally binding 4th and 5th carbon budgets, as defined by the Climate Change Act.

…”A Net Zero goal is exactly the type of aspiration that will galvanise industry to step up its efforts to decarbonise as an immediate priority.

…”Clearly, there will be a need for further regulatory interventions. The Energy White Paper, scheduled for later this year, provides an opportunity to consider the benefits of embedding a real carbon price into law. And the Environment Bill should enshrine a powerful, independent green watchdog able to hold government to account on climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as environmental protection.”


Keith Anderson, chief executive, ScottishPower: “The CCC report – like the reports, protests and documentaries that have come before it – could not be clearer. The cost of our carbon economy is too high – too high on bills, our environment and our health.  The CCC is also clear that that business and governments must take a lead to deliver a net-zero UK by 2050 – a plan we all must now deliver on.

“The energy sector has a critical role to play, which is why  ScottishPower already only generates 100% green energy. However the UK needs to quadruple renewable electricity generation by 2050 to reach net-zero and the government needs to urgently remove the barriers to onshore wind to deliver on this. There is no cheaper form of renewable energy, it is quick to build and we already know it can lower the cost of energy.”


Ken Hunnisett, project director, Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management: The  recommendation “is both bold and ambitious…. Energy consumed for heating accounts for 37% of UK final energy consumption and therefore makes a significant contribution to the UK’s CO2 emissions. Heat networks are just one of a number of potential solutions that will help the UK reduce its CO2 emissions and meet its net zero carbon target by 2050 alongside converting natural gas into hydrogen, wind farms and greater use of and cleaner generation of electricity through, for example, wind farms and solar panels.”


Antony Walker, deputy chief executive, techUK: ”The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things can make manufacturing and heavy industry much more efficient. Electrically powered connected and autonomous vehicles can reduce transport emissions and improve air quality. The data-driven energy revolution will see Demand Side Response help reduce building and domestic emissions. Cloud adoption can deliver energy efficiencies in all industries. And Artificial Intelligence will help scientists model the climate more effectively, farmers grow more efficiently and use our energy more sparingly.”


Simon Daniel, chief executive, Moixa: “The UK needs to move faster and lead the world as a low carbon economy. We need to deliver the best low carbon electricity grid, through smart charging of batteries and electric vehicles, to maximise solar and wind resources. With the current arguments over customs unions and trade approaches, the UK should seize the opportunity to pioneer low carbon trade and carbon taxes – as also advocated by Germany this week. We should shift the World Trade Organisation and the EU to a tariff regime that favours products made more locally with low carbon electricity grids and digital services. This as a policy would help deliver the Paris accord.”


Deirdre Michie, chief executive, OGUK: “This report provides a balanced and thoughtful blueprint towards a lower carbon future, with our industry at the heart of a managed transition. The recommendations are rooted in practical choices that need to be made and recognise that achieving such reductions are challenging and have a cost.

“We stand ready to work constructively with governments, regulators and other industries in their response to the recommendations of the CCC report so that together we can deliver solutions that achieve the reductions required, without sacrificing security and affordability of energy supply for consumers and which do not disadvantage UK industries against their international competitors. The report also confirms the role of home-produced oil and gas in enhancing the UK’s energy sovereignty and the level of production anticipated by the report is consistent with the industry’s own projections.”

“At the same time, we recognise the serious challenge to our industry to reduce our operational emissions for offshore production in the coming years and to contribute positively to the decarbonisation pathways outlined in this report. As the report notes, the UK’s oil and gas industry is uniquely placed to help lead the world in the development and deployment of CCUS and other lower carbon technologies at scale, building on the re-use of offshore infrastructure, our geological expertise, and skills and knowledge of our supply chain.”


Sarah Merrick, founder and chief executive,  Ripple Energy: “It’s fantastic that the CCC is recommending net zero emissions. The government’s been dragging its heels on climate change for too long, it’s time for them to treat this crisis as a crisis. New onshore wind farms need to be able to get planning consent so we can phase out fossil fuels. People require help to switch to electric cars and to replace gas boilers with heat pumps. It’s all totally doable, but there’s absolutely no time to waste.”


Mark Hollands, energy strategy director, BSR Energy: ”We praise the UK government for potentially becoming the first developed economy to enshrine a zero-carbon target in law, but achieving this will require more aggressive thinking and actions. There are several key changes the Government can drive through to aid the roll-out of a new onshore renewable generation and storage. The headline change necessary is the introduction of a Carbon Tax.” 


Richard Burrell, chief executive, AMP Clean Energy: “The report from the CCC makes for very interesting reading, particularly the role that bioenergy can play in helping the UK meet its net zero targets by 2050.  It acknowledges that the technology is now in place to make clean energy a truly viable solution – something that would not have been feasible 10 years ago.

… “However, as there is no current major CCS initiative in place to promote a longer term strategy for biomass heat, major investment will be required to make this a reality. 

…“There needs to be robust policy framework in place to unlock the full potential of biomass.  The current financial incentive – the RHI – will close to new entrants in 2021.  This uncertainty is leading to investor inertia, and we risk undermining the expertise and supply chains that have been built up over the last ten years.” 


Tom Greatrex, chief executive, Nuclear Industry Association: “The Committee on Climate Change’s report rightly highlights just how far we still need to go for the UK to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In decarbonising power, it highlights that we will need more low carbon sources of electricity – confirming other academic and expert reports – with nuclear continuing to play an integral part alongside renewables. Nuclear has long provided the UK with clean, reliable, secure electricity, and it will be needed to help meet the increased demand from the electrification of heat and transport. ”


Matt Allen, chief executive, Pivot Power: “As the country moves to establish net zero emissions targets, our message is simple – let’s bring every town, city and village with us in the clean growth revolution. Good for business and good for local communities in equal share, our plan will create access to low-carbon transport and jobs in the decarbonised economy for all members of society.”


Lord Adair Turner, chair of the Energy Transitions Commission: “Since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, the science evidencing man-made climate change has become ever clearer – and the costs of tackling the problem have also dropped dramatically. For example, we have seen huge falls in the costs of wind, solar and batteries – 65% for wind, 80% for solar and batteries. This means that it is possible to adopt a net zero target, without a significant increase in the cost.  

“The Energy Transitions Commission, which I chair, has also shown that we can get to net zero in harder to decarbonise sectors such as heavy industry, aviation and shipping by 2050, and that the total impact on living standards would be negligible. And although the transition may appear daunting for some areas, such as home heating, the shift away from town gas in the 60s and 70s, is proof that, handled well, these transitions can be both possible and desirable for homeowners. But we must also be clear that zero should mean zero; that is zero within the UK, not zero by buying carbon offsets from other countries.”


David Oliver, senior energy consultant, Inenco: “The CCC report outlines ambitious, but not unfeasible, targets for hitting net zero emissions by 2050.  Climate change strategy is already the main driver for changes to the way that we use and pay for energy, and a robust strategy is to be welcomed if it results in a clear roadmap for the future.

“The report also acknowledges that – to hit this target - a number of large infrastructure projects will need to be implemented.  This includes upgrades to the electricity distribution and transmission networks, hydrogen generation, carbon capture and pumped storage, among others.

“While the report hasn’t gone as far as to put a firm figure on the  investment spend required – although it estimates that the cost of meeting a net-zero target will be around 1-2% of GDP in 2050 – past examples have shown that such projects are notoriously prone to overspend.  Therefore, the focus should be on proven technologies, rather than too much innovation.

“The CCC says that HM treasury will decide how to fund the transition, so it is key that any policy does not disadvantage UK industry.  History shows that such funding will come from direct taxation of energy, so what we have recommended for some time still stands i.e. business consumers should continue to look at ways that they can use less energy – this not only helps them contribute to the greenhouse gas reductions, it also reduces their exposure to increased costs.”



Scott McGregor, chief executive, redT,: We are in full support of the UK adopting a zero emissions target for 2050, a move that will benefit the UK’s world-leading low carbon industries and help to tackle climate change. The UK is in pole position in the global race to develop effective energy storage solutions and we want to build on this leadership as the energy transition accelerates. We would even advocate going one step further by setting annual cumulative targets for emission reductions per industry in order to define a legal pathway for reductions year by year over the next decade. This approach would allow each sector to develop economic business models to reduce emissions, using short term milestones to track progress on the way to meeting the longer term net zero target.” 


Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary for energy: “The implications of the CCC Report reach into every home, job, business and nook and cranny of our lives and society.

“The government itself and parliament must now take direct responsibility for the economic and industrial consequences of the future political decisions that are required. This must happen before, for example, we maroon new homes off of the gas grid when a switch to hydrogen is both logical and a recommendation from the CCC Report.

“The recent resignation of the fracking commissioner shows just how big the gap is between political decisions and the economic and industrial consequences of those decisions.

…“In facing up to the economic and industrial issues tied up in these political decisions, government would be accountable to the electorate as a whole not a vocal activist minority. .. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) say that by 2022 every household will be paying through their energy bills £10 per week to meet the costs of subsidies to operators of renewable energy sources.

“These subsidies should be from done progressively from general taxation rather than asking lower paid workers to pay the same amount as the better off households.”


John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace UK: The Committee on Climate Change has clearly thrown down the gauntlet to the government over delivering increased ambition. The committee has spelt out that if we want to maintain our credibility and any leadership on climate then the government can no longer faff around with promises and half measures. It needs to have plausible, deliverable plans.

“We might argue over the committee’s 2050 date for a net zero carbon economy but what nobody can argue is that the government’s business as usual, steady-as-she-goes approach will suffice. We need to radically change course, and the sooner the better for the economy, people, and the rest of nature.”


Matthew Clayton, managing director, Thrive Renewables: “The red tape slowing onshore renewable development must be removed. We have innovative technology that can provide competitively priced power, create jobs and deliver decarbonisation, and yet the planning framework is preventing sector growth. If left unchecked, this may well lead to a reduction in the national renewables fleet over the next decade. The short term costs of change are insignificant compared with the price of potential damage. And ultimately low cost and low carbon are aligning.”

Further reading

Clean energy is the UK’s biggest Brexit opportunity

Time to leave energy ‘evolution’ behind and lead the revolution