Increasing the UK’s Environmental Ambitions: Net Zero and Renewables

By Dr Gareth Stockman, Chief Executive Officer, Marine Power Systems (MPS)

Since MPS launched its new tech offerings, DualSub and WindSub in April, we’ve witnessed a series of unprecedented events in the world of climate, politics and green business. From climate protests led by Extinction Rebellion which have pushed climate change right up the news agenda to the emergence of Greta Thunberg – a environmental ambassador and climate campaigner for a future generation. We’ve had urgent calls to action from global organisations; the UN issued a stark warning about dramatic biodiversity loss in early May, just days after the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its Net Zero report. Not only this, the UK government voted in favour of declaring a climate emergency

All these events have combined to extraordinary effect. UK politicians are reconsidering climate policies – fuelled by a growing awareness that legislation against climate change is becoming a vote-winner as well as critical to the future of our planet as more than ever before, the public are calling for action to be taken.

So what should be done? In its Net Zero report, the CCC advocates a complete elimination of net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This means effectively that over the next 30 years we completely reform all sectors of the British economy, including energy generation, farming, construction, international aviation and shipping. It’s a mammoth task – so is it achievable? Yes, says the report. “With known technologies alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990.”

The report makes it clear that this has to be a collaborative effort. We all need to do more. However, decarbonising the energy sector is integral to the Net Zero report’s vision.  With a large, reliable supply of electricity being essential to the operating of our society and future economy, the CCC recommends an enormous rollout of “offshore wind and other renewables” as our coal plants are shutdown. The report states that in order to meet the recommended net zero target, the UK Government would need to increase its low-carbon power fourfold, through a ‘consistently strong deployment’ of low carbon energy sources. This would mean that today’s 42GW of renewable energy capacity would need to be boosted to as much as 85GW by 2050.

Marine energy can and must play a significant role in the UK’s shift to Net Zero. This motion was echoed by the 91 MPs  who shortly after the publication of the CCC’s report, united in their support for marine energy and wrote a letter to the Energy Minister Claire Perry who is currently drafting the UK’s energy White Paper. The letter urged her to ensure that the UK capitalises on its role as a world leader in wave and tidal power.  With competitors such as Canada and China clamouring to take this mantle from the UK, Perry would do well to recognise that supporting the marine renewables sector is not only integral to a Net Zero ambition, it will enable the UK to lead a global market which has the potential to grow to £76 billion by 2050.

It’s not just MP’s who are lobbying for inclusive, long-term environmental strategies. Businesses, too, recognise the threat to their own future unless they push for urgent action. At the end of last month more than 120 of the UK’s major business leaders signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for an immediate increase to climate change targets an adoption of net zero emissions by 2050. In doing so, the UK will show ‘leadership on a global level while strengthening the UK economy.’

Ultimately there is a groundswell of desire to take action and to positively influence the trajectory of global temperatures. We’re at a critical turning point in energy and climate legislation. There is no option but to embrace the changes that sit before us. As Dr Ajay Gambhir, Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute and Net Zero report contributor said, “the net-zero target looks eminently achievable, so long as the right policies and measures are put in place. If the UK doesn’t ultimately make its fair contribution to the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warning to 2C we’ll look back on this report and ask why its advice wasn’t followed.” Simply put, there’s no time to loose.  We all need to get cracking.