The Center for Alternative Technology has released an update to its Zero Carbon Britain scenario, which suggests that the UK can reduce carbon emissions with existing technology.
The research shows that by making changes to our buildings, transport systems and behaviour, and by investing in a variety of renewable energy generation technologies suited to the UK (without a nuclear component), the UK can provide a reliable zero carbon energy supply without negatively impacting on quality of life.
Smart demand management, plus the intelligent use of surplus electricity in combination with biomass to create carbon neutral synthetic gas and liquid fuels, means that that the UK can meet its entire energy demand without imports, and also provide for some transport and industrial processes that cannot run on electricity.
In the scenario the biomass we require is provided by growing second generation energy crops on UK land. The UK’s cropland is still used for food production, and we produce the vast majority of the food required to provide for the UK population on home soil.
The research suggests that by changing what we eat (mainly a significant reduction in meat and dairy products, coupled with increases in various other food sources) means we eat a more healthy and balanced diet than we do today while our agricultural system emits fewer greenhouse gases and uses less land both at home and abroad, thus decreasing the environmental impact of our food production globally.
The scenario balances out some greenhouse gas emissions that cannot currently be eliminated from non-energy processes (industry, waste and agriculture) by using safe, sustainable and reliable methods of capturing carbon.
The research showed that by restoring important habitats such as peatland, and by substantially expanding forested areas, we not only capture carbon but also provide wood products for buildings and infrastructure, rich environments for biodiversity and more natural spaces for all of us to enjoy.
The research also highlights the need for further research on adaptation, economic transition and policy that would achieve sufficient greenhouse gas emissions reductions quickly and equitably.