Pathways to net zero carbon

These are excerpts from the minutes from our meeting in October 2019

The Zero Carbon Vision: Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace


Climate change is happening.  There’s more extreme weather (leading to loss of life) and our summers are getting warmer: we had the hottest day ever this summer and the 5 years up to 2018 were the hottest on record.  But there’s an opportunity for us to seize: 85% of British people are worried about climate change (52% are very worried) and 33% think climate change is likely to lead to the extinction of the human race: the depth of concern creates a space for action.



The transition to a low carbon economy also creates an economic opportunity.  We need to upskill people.  The Stern Report said it’s cheaper to act early: investing and acting faster now will bring co-benefits and a better society for everyone. 



The UK is the first (and only) major economy in the world to legislate for a net zero target (passed into law in June 2019).  This means that, by 2050, the greenhouse gas we add to the atmosphere will be no more than we take out, across all sectors of the economy.  The target isn’t flawless, but it does set a new direction of travel and pace.



The UK is hosing COP26 in Glasgow at the end of 2020.  This will frame UK politics between now and then. Domestic action has to be fit for purpose to enable us to stand on the international stage: the UK needs to be a leader at the international, national and local level.


  • Internationally, we need to make sure that Claire Perry, the COP President, is ambitious enough, for example by building a Net Zero Alliance, by stopping the global financing of deforestation and through the post-Brexit trade agenda.
  • Nationally, we need major commitments from Government through policy support and investment.  A recent Climate Coalition report costed the UK net zero carbon commitment at 5% of Government spend per year: the same as is currently spent on defence.  £42bn/year is needed for the climate and nature emergency – that’s £25bn/year more than is already committed.  Private sector must be leveraged too.  Other commitments are required too, such as banning fracking, increasing energy efficiency and renewables, and speeding up the electrification of transport.


Action also needs to be taken locally, for example:


  • Set measurable targets to achieve net zero and meet nature restoration goals
  • Ensure that voices of the most vulnerable communities are represented in council decision-making – including exploring the use of representative Citizen Assemblies/Citizen’s Juries
  • Use legal and planning mechanisms such as Section 106 agreements to fund climate actions and nature restoration projects
  • Retrofit council-owned properties with high levels of insulation & enforce building standards
  • Install Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points
  • Prioritise transport investment into cycling, walking, trams and public transport, such as electric buses
  • Identify areas suitable for renewable energy in the local plan
  • Switch street lighting to well-designed and well directed LED lights
  • Adopt circular economy waste policies in relevant plans and contracts
  • Double tree cover on council-owned land


Local authorities can also put pressure on national government, for example:


  • Call for at least 5% public spending per year on the climate and nature emergency - and talk about the public health and social benefits of acting now
  • Push for genuinely transformative leadership at COP26
  • Call for new cars and vans with petrol and diesel engines to be banned by 2030
  • Start talking about the need for a shift in diets & call for a boost in support for public procurement in schools, hospitals and prisons across the UK to increase access to locally-sourced, plant based food
  • Call for a Frequent Flier Levy
  • Work with unions and other local stakeholders to increase protection for workers in new low carbon sectors, and to push for a national just transition strategy that has sufficient funds and powers


Pathways to carbon neutrality: Claire Jamieson, GLA

The GLA has taken a carbon budget approach to the 2050 zero carbon target, during which time the population of London is expected to grow by over 11m – and of course all the 33 Boroughs have their own plans too! 



Energy consumption in London has decreased by 20% since 2000 and emissions have decreased 32% since 1990.  These are mainly due to the reduced carbon intensity of the grid: heat and transport are still really big issues.



We developed the London pathway to zero carbon through a number of steps: transport modelling, building efficiency modelling, energy systems scenarios and measures to meet 2050.  The final step was three five-year carbon budgets: these help to identify no-regret options and show when key decisions needs to be made.



We have developed for energy scenarios, off of which get to about a 90% emissions reduction by 2050, leaving 10% to be offset (about 5mt, eg for aviation, heritage buildings, etc).




No regrets actions include:


  • Energy efficiency measures to bring at least 70% buildings to EPC C by 2030
  • Roll-out of heat networks: 70,000 homes by 2025
  • Increase in heat pump deployment: 300,000 buildings by 2025
  • All new buildings supplied by individual heat pumps or district heating by 2020
  • Co-ordinate roll-out of EV charge points supporting 10% of passenger vehicles by 2025
  • Quality assurance programmes, information campaigns and investment in supply chains and infrastructure
  • Trials of hydrogen for heating and CCS development outside London


The tools we have at our disposal at the GLA are:




  • Collect and spend carbon offset funds
  • Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards – enforce, join calls to strengthen
  • Fossil fuel divestment / clean investment
  • London Plan – zero carbon new developments


Programmes & funds


  • Solar Together London – 624 homes, ~35% cost reduction, 15 boroughs, Ph 3
  • Warmer Homes Fund – energy efficiency measures in 1,100 fuel poor homes
  • RE:FIT – public sector energy efficiency savings over 2700 ktonnes CO2/yr
  • RE:NEW – 26,800 homes retrofitted/in contract
  • DEEP – 28 projects, plan/build low and zero C district heating and solar PV
  • £400k London Community Energy Fund – 31 projects so far. Ph 3 in progress.
  • 6 Smart and flexible demonstration projects – e.g. FlexLondon, Home Response, E-flex: how to store/use/integrate flexible energy systems to decarbonise quicker, cheaper and with less disruption
  • Mayor’s Energy Efficiency Fund – low carbon finance available to public sector


Tools & Reports


Our carbon offsetting report will be coming out soon, showing how much has been collected and spent by the Boroughs