The infamous 400 parts per million of CO2 has passed and concentration just keeps going up. So what should be done?
The carbon dioxide emissions from the UK grid are 500gCO2/kWh, which the CCC says the government should commit to reducing to around 50gCO2/kWh by 2030. This is commendable, but with emissions increasing globally, the target will have little impact on climate change; the infamous 400 parts per million of CO2 has passed and concentration just keeps going up. So what should be done?
Investors are risk averse and setting some sort of target is a good idea. But those targets must be credible so investors are sure that they, and any commitments from government associated with them, can and will be kept to.
Once the economics are right, investment streams are assured and contracts are signed, targets for decarbonising the grid can be set. The current strategy of setting CO2 targets before the investment is in place is risky, if not foolish.
The UK can go a long, long way towards a decarbonised grid, so long as investors have a clear, guaranteed roadmap now to invest in large-scale renewables and CCS. Then all we will need next is global concensus.
Rick Wheal is associate director at Arup