Accelerating innovation towards net zero emissions


A Vivid Economics report for the Aldersgate Group, arguing for accelerated innovation to meet net zero targets.

Accelerated innovation is needed to meet a net zero emissions target by mid-century as recently recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018). Moving from the existing target to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, towards a net zero emissions target by 2050 implies a greater role for key technologies. For example, while Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) is part of existing plans, the net zero goal is likely to require a greater level of deployment and new applications of the technology. An ambitious approach to rolling out technologies will also be needed across buildings, transport and in the hard to treat sectors such as industry and agriculture.

Moving from invention to widespread deployment can take many decades, yet only around three decades remain to meet the net zero emissions goal. The challenge for policy makers is to effectively catalyse the rapid innovation needed for net zero on a short timescale. Learning lessons from past transformations will be critical to achieving this.

The unique contribution of this report is to identify the lessons from successful and more rapid historical innovations and apply them to the challenge of meeting net zero emissions in the UK. We review a broad database of historical innovations and identify lessons for accelerating innovation to achieve net zero emissions in the UK.