The world must use existing technologies rather than wait on new technological breakthroughs if 2050 net-zero emissions targets are to be met, says a new report by UK Fires, a collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London.
The report outlined opportunities for future growth and changes to business models and future lifestyles that will need to made in order to reach decarbonisation goals.
The last two decades have seen civilisation strive for new technologies for energy supply and to drive economic growth, whilst avoiding significant challenges posed by current lifestyles.
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Many new technologies will take years to effectively deploy at scale within the three decades remaining to 2050, warns the report.
UK Fires calls for 100% global electrification which, along with incremental changes such as driving smaller vehicles, the use of public transport and ensuring that buildings, vehicles and equipment are well-designed and long-lasting, can cut global energy use by as much as 60% in comparison to current levels.
According to UK Fires, the two industries facing the most challenges are shipping and aviation, with the report suggesting that electric aeroplanes will likely still not be operating at commercial scale by 2050, so reaching Net Zero will mean the cessation of commercial aviation. The report suggests similar findings in the global shipping industry, noting that the transition to commercial electrically-powered shipping is unlikely within the next 30 years.
Interestingly, the above contradicts 2019 findings by international corporate climate change specialists, the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Resources Institute, which found that utilities are the sector most in need of carbon emission reductions, following the validation of science-based targets for 237 companies.
UK Fires report states: “Apart from flying and shipping, all of our current uses of energy could be electrified. With tremendous commitment, the UK could generate enough non-emitting electricity to deliver about 60% of our current final energy-demand but we could make better use of that through incremental changes in the technologies that convert energy into transport, heating and products.
“No one actor can bring about Absolute Zero. Delivering it is a journey depending on co-operative action by individuals, businesses and governments acting on good information.”
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