​New UK reports show opportunity in net zero emissions targets

Universities are in a prime position to undertake much of the R&D required to achieve net zero emissions.
The Aldersgate Group – a membership organisation that drives action for a sustainable economy – have released two new reports on net zero emissions targets.

EAUC are proud members of Aldersgate Group, and we welcome the reports that argue that a net zero emissions target could provide a significant industrial opportunity for UK businesses as long as it is accompanied by a much bolder innovation policy and ambitious market creation measures that are informed by a clear understanding of life cycle emissions.

They state that these policies should seek to accelerate the innovation at scale of critical technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, and rapidly grow the demand for ultra-low carbon infrastructure, products and services.

1.       The first report, Accelerating innovation towards net zero, from Vivid Economics and the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) commissioned by the Aldersgate Group, sets out key recommendations to accelerate innovation. These recommendations come from a review of past case studies of rapid innovations relevant to decarbonisation from the banking, manufacturing and energy sectors

2.       The second report, Zeroing in: capturing the opportunities from a UK net zero emission target, from the Aldersgate Group, establishes key policy measures that should accompany a UK net zero emissions target to maximise industrial opportunities for UK businesses and avoid unintended consequences. It features innovative case studies from the energy, steel, aviation, manufacturing, ICT and cement sectors showing how businesses are already taking action towards net zero emissions.

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group, said: “UK businesses are ready to take up the challenge of delivering a net zero emissions target but bold innovation and market creation policies will be essential to give them the support they need. Businesses want to see the government’s innovation policy move beyond the ‘fear of failure’ and trial critical technologies such as CCS and hydrogen at scale in order to inform key policy decisions in areas such as heat and industrial decarbonisation. Support for innovation must be combined with measures informed by lifecycle emissions, such as markets standards, to grow the demand for ultra-low carbon infrastructure, products and services and set a market level playing field in the process.” 

Iain Patton, CEO at EAUC, said: “Universities are in a prime position to undertake much of the R&D required to achieve net zero emissions. They are also key for educating the future change makers, as well as occupying large campuses that they are keen to explore new carbon emissions cutting measures on. We welcome these reports and will continue to work with the Higher and Further Education sector to ensure they play their part.”

Professor Jim Watson, Director, UK Energy Research Centre, said: “Accelerating innovation will be essential if a net zero target is to be met by the middle of this century. Our report shows this is likely to require governments to implement comprehensive, mission-oriented policy programmes that include support for R&D, demonstrations and market creation. Institutional innovations could also be needed - including, for example, a new public delivery body to develop pipeline and storage infrastructure for carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Sean Tompkins, CEO, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “These reports show that people shouldn’t fear the transition to a low-carbon economy. Buildings account for 60% of global electricity use and produce more than one-third of all greenhouse emissions, so our profession should see it as a huge opportunity to innovate and modernise. That’s why we’re supporting them with resources, skills and standards to ensure this happens.”

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