Around 78% of the energy we currently use to generate electricity, heat, transport and energy comes from fossil fuels, mainly oil and gas. Plans for change have been launched in a number of sectors, but as the Climate Change Committee recently reported, slow decision-making and action pose an increasing challenge.
Before next year’s general election, all political parties must demonstrate how this transition can be achieved in a way that does not offshore jobs, GDP and emissions; Leverage public support for climate action and enable honest conversations about the changes needed.
Reducing emissions and reducing dependence on fossil fuels comes at a cost, but can bring a wide range of economic and societal benefits. For example, our research shows how CCUS can not only support the transition and sustain current jobs and supply chains in the oil and gas sector, but also create new industrial activities that support jobs and generate new sources of GDP, including new export opportunities through carbon Sequestration services to other countries. But without sustained momentum, the UK risks falling short of its ambition of capturing 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 and falling behind competitors such as Norway and the Netherlands in emerging international markets.
In short, CCUS is just one area of the broader range of energy infrastructure and energy demand solutions that are required. Unless a clear course of action is laid out and established, the UK could be left behind in a changing global economy being shaped by frameworks such as the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU Green New Deal.
Ultimately, net zero is an economic and political challenge that requires governments to take the lead and take people with them. It requires well-planned actions over multiple electoral periods and ongoing collaboration with multiple partners. It is crucial to learn lessons from the past, both positive ones – for example the multi-stakeholder coordination in converting 13 million homes from the city to natural gas with minimal disruption and cost to homes in the 1970s – and mixed types too – such as the successful deployment of wind power in Scotland, but only a fraction of the promised 28,000 jobs will be created. We can and must do better in the race not only to net zero, but also to a modern green economy.
Professor Karen Turner is Director of the Center for Energy Policy at the University of Strathclyde