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The Energy for a Net Zero Society conference will be taking place just two months before the important UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, which is being held in Glasgow. So, what links this conference and the COP?
The Paris Agreement – ratified by 187 countries – includes the long-term temperature goal to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C. Parties are required to produce pledges to reduce emissions – their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for 2030 – but we know that the pledges produced so far do not add up to what is required. There is an “implementation” gap as well, in that current policies do not add up to meeting even the existing pledges.
If the temperature goal is to be met, both ambition and implementation need to increase. COP26 is vital in this process. Parties are required by the end of 2020 to resubmit their pledges to 2030.
As host of COP26 the UK has a huge role. Going into the COP it will be crucial that it demonstrates its own leadership. The UK was the first major economy to legislate a net-zero target for 2050. But we also know that existing UK plans to do not put it on course to that target.
The Committee on Climate Change is required to recommend the level of the UK’s sixth carbon budget (the limit on UK emissions in the period 2033-2037) by the end of 2020. It has already announced that it intends to bring that forward, to publication of its advice in September, to allow time for the Government to consider – and hopefully, in its view – adopt that recommendation prior to the COP. It will also, as part of its advice, consider if the level of the existing carbon budgets out to the fifth carbon budget in 2028-2032 – set before the UK committed to net-zero – should be revised. These budgets will set the pathway to net-zero for the UK.
Over the course of the year, to demonstrate that it is serious about net-zero, the Government will need to commit to the pathway and firm up its policy plans. That leadership will be required running into COP26.
How to achieve the societal transformation for net-zero is therefore what the Government will be considering. It is precisely the focus of the BIEE conference. How do we achieve emissions reductions in difficult-to-reduce sectors like heat for buildings, and industry? How do we achieve the transition to zero emissions in transport? How do we take millions of individual consumers with us, in ensuring that decisions they make – on how they heat their homes, on which car to buy … – can put us on track? How do we achieve the transformation in a fair way? What lessons are there from international experience?