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UK’s 2050 net zero carbon aims signed into law

HVAC industry insiders and fuel poverty charity argue that formal climate change ambitions must be backed by significant national investment strategy to realise zero carbon homes and buildings

The UK’s commitment to eliminate carbon emissions entirely by 2050 has been passed into law today.

Yet a range of figures within the HVAC sector are now waiting for additional policy to be set out on how these ambitions will be met and what sort of finance or support there will be to assist the shift to lower and zero carbon building services.

Outgoing prime minister Theresa May announced earlier this month that the UK would become the first of the G7 group of industrialised nations to set a formal target for becoming a net zero carbon economy.

Net zero is defined as ensuring any carbon emissions must be balanced with programmes that can offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, such as by planting trees or introducing carbon capture and storage technologies.

The commitment is intended to be reviewed after a five-year period to ensure other countries are making similar commitments to avoid UK industry being put at a possible competitive disadvantage.

The UK previously set a target of curbing carbon emissions from 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Chris Skidmore, the energy and clean growth minister, argued that the new legislation, which has been approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords, has ensured the UK was the first major global economy to commit to a zero carbon timeline.

He said, “We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.”

A range of potential options to try and help realise the government’s aim of becoming a net zero carbon economy over the next three decades will now require significant investment. This is particularly the case for major national initiatives such as transforming the existing gas grid to distribute hydrogen as a form of potentially lower carbon heat.

Ongoing uncertainty over how the country should proceed with Brexit, is expected to have set back clearer policy developments that may set out funds and government’s preferred options to transform heat delivery.

Energy efficiency concerns

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) has meanwhile called for a programme to support a widescale transformation of less efficient UK homes to ensure a more sustainable housing stock that requires less energy for heating.

NEA chief executive Adam Scorer cited recently published government figures that showed 2.53 million homes in England, about ten per cent of the entire stock, were classed as being in fuel poverty.

Mr Scorer added that it was vital for significant financial commitments to improving the energy efficiency of homes and key systems if carbon emissions are to be eliminated nationally.

He said, “Through the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and Fuel Poverty Strategy, UK government must re-introduce central investment to boost energy efficiency improvements in the hardest to heat homes.”

Mr Scorer said that limited public funds to improve domestic energy efficiency, higher energy prices and a decline in heating system installations all posed significant challenges to tackle heat poverty. He called for fuel poverty mitigation to be at the heart of future UK policy to tackle carbon.

He said, “A commitment to a net zero carbon economy will require committing to energy efficiency at a far greater scale. If our responsibility to the fuel poor means anything, we must start in the homes of people whose lives are blighted by fuel poverty.”

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