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UK Net Zero Strategy: Oxford Net Zero academics respond

Oct 19, 2021

The government has today (19 October) released its Net Zero Strategy, setting out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet the UK’s net zero target by 2050.

Our academic experts at Oxford Net Zero have been responding to the policy announcements outlined in the strategy.

On disposal of carbon dioxide

Professor Myles Allen, Director of Oxford Net Zero, said (quoted in The Guardian):

“We have to stop fossil fuels from causing global warming before the world stops using fossil fuels. Finally, the government seems to be acknowledging this obvious fact and belatedly investing in safe and permanent disposal of carbon dioxide so we can stop dumping it into the atmosphere. Depressingly, however, they still assume it can be done by subsidising carbon capture and a reformed emission trading system.

“It can’t: taxpayers’ money won’t last forever and by the time emission permits become expensive enough to make carbon capture worthwhile, it’ll be too little, too late. We have to make safe carbon dioxide disposal a licensing requirement for the continued extraction and import of fossil fuels. Outsiders with as diverse views as the Onward think tank and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Net Zero understand this: it’s a shame the civil service just don’t want to know.”

On removing greenhouse gases from the air

Dr Steve Smith, Executive Director of Oxford Net Zero, said:

“One of the genuinely new things in this strategy is an approach to greenhouse gas removal – not just cutting emissions but taking them back out of the air. This is something we are going to need to reach net zero, alongside cutting down on emissions as much as possible. It’s a good step forward – perhaps even world-leading – but there is much more to do.”

On energy demand for cooling

Dr Radhika Khosla, Associate Professor, said:

“A key piece of achieving net zero is identifying and managing areas of energy demand. The net zero strategy misses a growing area of energy consumption which is the increased demand for cooling in the commercial and domestic sectors as extreme heat continues to rise in the UK. Along with F-gases mitigation, which is necessary, there are crucial energy efficiency and passive energy approaches to cooling which are needed to manage the increasing shift in cooling demand which the strategy does not shed much light on.”

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