Teleconferencing is one of the less obvious tools to battle climate change

Video-conferencing and wood to help UK achieve climate goals

Image credit: Fuelrefuel

The UK needs a complex approach in order to achieve its climate change goals that would include carbon removal technologies but also things like video-conferencing to slash travel-related emissions.

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has warned on Thursday that the country lacks strategies that would enable it to meet challenging emission reduction targets needed to achieve goals set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement last year.

The agreement, which UK Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to ratify by the end of this year, binds countries to make efforts that would prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 2℃ compared to pre-industrial times.

To achieve this goal, global carbon emissions would have to reach zero between the 2050s and 2070s.

According to the UK’s government advisors, achieving this goal would require a complex plan that goes beyond renewable energy generation. The advisors said strategies could involve planting trees, reducing meat consumption but also turning to video-conferencing instead of travel. That would be particularly helpful to reduce emissions from sectors such as aviation, which is not likely to be able to switch to carbon-free fuels any time soon.

According to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s existing domestic targets on climate change may be ‘relatively ambitious’ but not enough to achieve the goals of the Paris treaty, which in an optimal scenario wants to keep the temperature increase below 1.5℃

In fact, current policies would only deliver around half the emissions cuts the UK needs to make by 2030 to stay on track to meet its legal target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050.

“We don’t control the timetable, what we have to do is, within that timetable, to do this in the most cost-effective way,” said the committee’s chairman Lord Deben.

“It’s a timescale in which the climate is changing at a speed which is more hurried than we might have expected.

In addition to a widespread renewables roll-out, developing carbon capture technologies that would remove and permanently store carbon from power plants would also be necessary. In addition, around 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would have to be permanently removed from the atmosphere every year to compensate for some hard-to-tackle sources of atmospheric carbon.

“One of the things that is clear in the ambition of Paris is, if we’re going to reach net zero emissions by the end of the century, it’s quite likely we’re going to need some combination of greenhouse gas removal technologies in place to remove some of the carbon dioxide that will offset some of the emissions that are still taking place,” said the committee’s chief executive Matthew Bell.

The report has proposed multiple carbon-removal technologies, ranging from simple planting of trees to using wood for construction as well as electricity generation.

The committee further said the UK needs to get clear on its climate change policy with its pending exit from the European Union. The committee recommended for the UK to either maintain the policies set by the EU or replace them with equivalent measures.

“If the UK has weaker standards than the EU that could reduce opportunities for UK manufacturers and lead to a dumping on the UK market of inefficient products with higher running costs and emissions,” the committee said in a special report focused on Brexit.

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