Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
All human societies have had to face challenges of one sort or another. But the scale and scope of the challenges today is perhaps greater than in the whole of recorded history. A changing climate, diminishing fossil fuel reserves and rising energy demands are inter-connected problems that demand a common solution.
The Centre for Alternative Technology set itself a task in 2007: to work out if it was possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030 in order to help avoid a critical 2° global temperature rise and provide energy and economic security. Published in June, the result is Zerocarbonbritain2030, a 400-page brick of a book, produced by NGOs, academics, scientists and industry.
The report is consciously framed in the context of the existing economic paradigm and while there are undoubtedly bigger issues that underpin a transition to a greener society, the authors set out to show that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced to zero within 20 years without resorting to nuclear energy or international carbon offsetting. As such the report does not address issues such as international trade, neoliberalism, the politics of growth capitalism or class, gender and equity issues in anything approaching enough detail. However, it makes clear that embracing a zero carbon future would mean a deliberate reconstruction of the UK economy, ensuring climate and economic stability, increased energy and food security and millions of new, permanent jobs.
To secure a 70 per cent chance of staying below a 2° temperature rise, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to approach zero by 2100. The Zerocarbonbritain2030 report takes into account the UK’s historical responsibility for carbon emissions and argues that it should therefore take on a greater share of the burden to allow the majority world a longer period to decarbonise.
Power down to power up
Zerocarbonbritain2030 is the first fully integrated solution to climate change in the UK. The report is divided into five sections: the climate context, ‘power down’, land use, ‘power up’, and policy. ‘Power down’ demonstrates how we can reduce our energy demand by 57 per cent through energy efficiency and saving measures and ‘power up’ renewables to 100 per cent to meet the reduced demand.
The report’s proposals include:
n Buildings: It demands a deep refurbishment of existing buildings and highlights the needs for a code of sustainable refurbishment to cover the industrial and commercial sector. By constructing new buildings from wood, straw and other natural materials we can lock away millions of tonnes of CO2.
n Transport: Electrification of vehicles and a major shift to walking, cycling and public transport could produce a 63 per cent reduction in energy use for transport purposes. Contentiously, one third of current aviation could be maintained by growing sustainable bio-fuels in the UK.
n Land: One of the most controversial sections of the report is its land use scenario. The report shows how Britain can provide for its own essential food and fuel. But to do so would require a huge reduction in grazing livestock, which currently uses 83 per cent of agricultural land, generates 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and produces less than 30 per cent of the nutritional value of domestically-produced food. These changes, while radical, could be very positive for rural life, generating 93,000 net jobs.
n Renewables: The report demonstrates that all our energy needs, at all times, can be met with 100 per cent renewables. With the right mix of energy in different locations we can meet the challenges of variability in supply. Most would come from offshore wind, a huge resource, which could create thousands of jobs in manufacturing and installation.
A zero carbon transition could create millions of jobs in wind and solar power, and energy-efficiency programmes. For it to work, an international agreement on tackling climate change is vital, with ongoing climate negotiations taking a new direction that brings about swift action and a fair global agreement.
What would it be like?
The report offers one possible scenario that tries to balance what we are used to with what we need to do to reduce emissions rapidly. But what would a a zero carbon Britain look like?
We can imagine that people would be healthier as bikes and pedestrians dominate the roads and diets are largely made up of fresh vegetables, fruit and grains. There would still be cars, aviation and meat, but a lot less.
Rural areas would be repopulated as British farming is revitalised through changes in land use that bring new jobs. Smart appliances and energy efficiency would be buzzwords in the home; heating bills would dive as insulation became the norm and fuel poverty a thing of the past. Internationally a global agreement on climate change would mean that resources are equally distributed and a constant supply of infinite renewable energy would foster international security.
The solutions to create a zero carbon and a high well-being future for all exist. What has been missing to date is the political will to implement them. Zerocarbonbritain2030 is a practical approach to the biggest challenge that humanity has faced. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good beginning. n
Download the report: www.zcb2030.org
We work ourselves into the ground for little economic benefit. It's high time to for a change, writes Aidan Harper.
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
The unrepentent Sarah Champion has no place in the modern Labour Party
Sarah Champion has defended her comments on race and sexual abuse. Her views have no place in the modern politics, writes Gavin Lewis
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright