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We've picked the low hanging fruit - now we need to innovate to reach net zero

We must create an environment that encourages businesses to develop new clean technologies and encourages trade to expand the reach of innovative solutions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark assessment of the state of the fight against climate change, released at the start of April, is a sobering read. The world must accelerate action on climate change now if we are to reach net zero by the middle of this century and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

But beyond the bad news, the report also made clear that significant emissions cuts are possible and it highlighted that at least eighteen countries have managed to reduce their emissions over the last decade. This includes the UK, which has been the fastest-growing economy in the G7 while at the same time making the greatest emissions cuts since 1990.

We have successfully replaced coal power with renewable electricity generation, especially from offshore wind, and have taken positive steps like announcing a ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. The UK’s strategy has been effective and if, built upon, means we are on track to reach our net zero target by 2050.

However, now that the low hanging fruit is well and truly picked, in order to make progress, we will need to tackle areas where emission cuts are harder to achieve. Sectors like heavy industry and chemicals, which often rely on fossil fuels, do not have easy solutions.

We will also need to build the behind-the-scenes infrastructure for many clean technologies to reach their full potential - better battery storage and grid connections will help to make sure that every last watt of energy produced makes it to homes and businesses. Innovation will be vital.

To achieve this, we need to create an environment that encourages businesses to develop new clean technologies and encourages trade with other countries to expand the reach of innovative solutions to climate change. We need to be wary of regulations that slow down potentially lifesaving technologies like gene editing and AI, and instead, we must support entrepreneurs to innovate.

Initiatives like the government’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund have already supported disruptive technologies that have the potential to slash UK emissions, such as Sedwell in Suffolk which is working to improve the efficiency of wind turbines and prolong their lifespan.

What’s more, looking at the benefits of decarbonisation in purely environmental terms does climate action a disservice. We will be able to train people in new, highly skilled and highly paid jobs, not just concentrated in large metropolitan hubs and on university graduates but anyone, anywhere.

We will be able to take greater control of our energy and our industries. Better housing and greener transport will leave us warmer, healthier and happier for decades to come. The UK has the potential to lead the world in developing these clean technologies. We can’t afford to miss out.

First published by PoliticsHome. Peter Aldous MP (Waveney) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.


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