Zeroing in: capturing the opportunities from a UK net zero emission target


A net zero emissions target can deliver significant economic and industrial growth opportunities for the UK, if supported by a comprehensive policy package.

The UK is currently committed under the Climate Change Act 2008 to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Increasing this target to achieve net zero emissions requires the UK to firstly significantly accelerate the action it is already taking in areas such as the power sector and buildings to achieve the 80% target.

Secondly, the UK must rapidly tackle more complex areas to decarbonise, such as heavy industry, long-distance transport and agriculture.[1] Infrastructure designed today will have lifecycles of 20 years and upwards, so a net zero target needs to be set in the near future to help businesses invest cost-effectively and avoid locking in emissions. The challenge ahead is significant, but so is the opportunity. The Aldersgate Group’s engagement with a broad cross-section of businesses, many of whom have already set their own net zero commitments and science-based targets, has demonstrated optimism that there is a significant industrial and export opportunity for the UK if it is an early mover in setting a net zero target, as long as it is underpinned by a supportive policy package.

This report sets out how the UK can make the most of the net zero opportunity by firstly providing the background to net zero in the UK, and then identifying key actions the government should take now to meet existing carbon budgets and set a good foundation to increase ambition. It then considers how government can develop a bolder innovation policy, establish frameworks to expand the UK market for low carbon infrastructure, goods and services, and encourage more cross-industry collaboration to identify opportunities for accelerated emissions reductions. The report features case studies of ultra-low carbon innovation around the world throughout to demonstrate the feasibility and new market opportunities of delivering a net zero target in the UK.

[1] Vivid Economics (November 2018) Keeping it cool: how the UK can end its contribution to climate change.