News items for Sussex Energy Group
Three things we learned from the Sussex Energy Group Keynote Lecture
By: Richard Flockemann
Last updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2023
On Wednesday 08 November the Sussex Energy Group held its annual keynote address – always a major event on the University of Sussex Business School’s calendar. This year we were fortunate enough to have Chris Stark as our keynote speaker.
Chris Stark is the Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee, a statutory institution established in 2008 to report to parliament about how well the UK government is doing at mitigating and adapting to climate change. It does this primarily by releasing Carbon Budgets every five years. These Carbon Budgets calculate the amount of greenhouses gases the UK can emit during the coming years to still be on track for reaching net zero by 2050. It also recommends a range of policies that would help the government meet these budgets.
Why this is a great time to hear from the CCC
This is a particularly interesting time to hear about how the Climate Change Committee is thinking about where the UK is. In September, as you may recall, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced some changes to the UK’s net zero policies – in a move which some observers said likely foreshadows the government’s strategy in next year’s general election.
While the Prime Minister insisted he remains committed to achieving the UK’s overall target of net zero by 2050, he indicated that under his watch the UK would be setting a more relaxed pace in the race to net zero by easing the timetable for several of the interim targets. This of course raised the question of whether this more sedate pace of change really was consistent with the 2050 target. He also made comments that some scientists took to be caricaturing the positions of the Climate Change Committee by scrapping non-existent policies (seven recycling bins, a meat tax).
While he wouldn’t speculate on any of the political dimensions of this announcement, Chris Stark did offer some insights both about how the CCC feels the UK is doing, and about what’s going to be in its next Carbon Budget (CB7), due out in 2025. He also dropped some hints about the kinds of policy questions the CCC is particularly interested in right now, and what we can do to get some of our research featured in CB7.
Three things to expect from the next Carbon Budget
1. Electrification is key
Chris Stark identified four broad actions we need to take to hit Net Zero from where we are: Demand Reduction and Efficiency, taking up and expanding Low-Carbon Energy (especially electrification) and offsetting emissions. Of these essential actions, electrification stands to be the one that has the most impact.
2. A spotlight on building stock
One interesting development to expect in CB7 is a greater emphasis on the UK’s creaking building stock, a problem that’s proven stubbornly difficult to fix. The building sector is one of the sources of emissions that the CCC thinks we most need to shrink.
3 Pure behaviour change is set to play a significant, but surprisingly small role
Another point that was emphasised is that the CCC thinks that societal or behaviour changes will play a crucial but relatively limited role in getting us to net zero. While 59% of what’s involved in meeting the last carbon budget involves some behaviour change, only 16% is expected to be achieved through pure behavioural or social changes. What will do most of the work, in the CCC’s estimation, is low-carbon technologies, and the kind of lower-friction behaviour change those technologies encourage. More switching to electric vehicles or opting for trains over flights, than adopting a vegan diet.