In 2019 Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) published “Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency” (CAT-ZCB) plan which would get the UK to zero carbon by 2030 – CAT-ZCB SiteExecutive Summary (summary). CAT took the view that the globe needs to effectively get to zero carbon, as net zero carbon to allow effectively business as usual is no longer enough – the world just isn’t big enough to offset our carbon emissions. This means significant but manageable change as CAT-ZCB shows starting now in order to minimise the climate emergency’s effects on human life.

The CAT-ZCB plan does not rely heavily on new undeveloped technologies as others do, but makes a compelling case that zero carbon Britain could be achieved by 2030 with existing technologies.

Unlike many other proposed solutions, the CAT-ZCB plan explicitly discusses the combination of power-down away from fossil fuels and power-up using renewables – so it doesn’t hide the need for change often expressed as pain – not “business as usual” but “new business”.

Power-down: CAT-ZCB plans a 60% reduction in energy use achieved by a combination of more efficient use of energy and reductions in activities which use energy. A 50% reduction in energy needed for heating could be achieved through improved new build and retro-fitted buildings to PassivHaus/EnerPHit standards. Increases in walking, cycling, use of public transport, less car journeys ideally all by electric vehicles and 66% less flying. Both energy efficiency and less traveling will change our lives, houses that are comfortable, planning journeys more efficiently, no short hop flights, fewer long hop flights enabled by fewer longer holidays.

Centre for Alternative Technology

Power-up: CAT-ZCB envisions 100% renewable and carbon neutral energy sources. The plan shows how generation of renewable electricity can fulfill 100% of the UK’s energy needs, when combined with carbon neutral synthetic fuels – using excess electricity to produce hydrogen which is combined with UK carbon biomass, so they are carbon neutral.

Energy flows in our scenario – from supply to demand (figures are in TWh/yr)
Centre for Alternative Technology

The wind doesn’t blow all the time at Redcar and the sun doesn’t always shine in Stokesley, this is where smart-meters, energy storage and the carbon neutral synthetic fuels come in. CAT have analysed 10 years UK weather and energy usage data to show convincingly that their scheme will ensure the lights always stay on.

Centre for Alternative Technology

Their analysis also shows that the answer isn’t more nuclear, as this base supply which couldn’t be turned off just increases excess energy at the terms when renewable are already able to exceed demand. Investment in nuclear would be better directed to accelerating renewable energy generation and carbon neutral synthetic gas.

CAT sees land use being tuned to provide a sustainable low carbon diet, reduced need for food imports, changing land use decreasing the amount of land used for human/animal food production while increasing wild land, fuel and energy land and carbon capture. Doubling of forests and restoration of peatlands results in a huge increase in carbon capture, which balances the residual emissions required for industry, food production and flying.

CAT have sort some independent views on their plan and the UK it would create, which you can read in “Zero carbon Britain and …“. This document is a collection of thought papers written in response to “Zero Carbon Britain: Rising to the Climate Emergency

These 4 flash cards give a good summary of what the CAT-ZCB plan proposes, but they don’t show the depth of analysis which is behind the report or show the 20 years over which CAT has been refining its plans, but you can read much of this in CAT’s open source research reports.

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