Responding to the publication of the UK Government’s net zero strategy, Professor Peter Bruce, Vice President of the Royal Society, said:
“It is good to see the Government’s net-zero strategy finally emerge; we now need to see it translated into action and delivery. The UK set the bar for ambition on emissions reductions last year, it is their actions that will be the true test. Time is running out if we want to limit the devastating effects of climate change.
“It is encouraging that Government has highlighted key technologies including nuclear, large-scale long-term energy storage and sustainable fuels for aviation.
“While science and engineering alone will not deliver net zero, there is no realistic path to decarbonisation without advances in research. We have seen how research and innovation have been vital in responding to the pandemic – a response that ultimately delivered vaccines, courtesy of long-term investment and the independence and expertise of the Vaccines Taskforce. To deliver on Net Zero, fast and cost-effectively, we need a living evidence-based roadmap, informed by our best experts working on the science and engineering of low carbon technologies. Such a group can determine which technologies are truly ready to deploy now, which need more development and which more research.
“Delivering net zero will be an incredibly complex undertaking that will require coordination across sectors – from electricity generation to heating and from land use to transport and industry. We will require the ability to switch priorities and change directions. We will need to be able to learn as we go and act on what we learn. How the different technologies will interlink and tensioning low carbon solutions against each other will be vital to efficient delivery. However, to ensure this happens, the Government needs to bring together an advisory group of scientific, engineering, and economic experts from academia and industry to help recreate the ‘can do’ approach seen in the development of vaccines. It is also vital that this group is independent, able to give confidence to public and private investors alike.
“While Government’s grasp of the technologies is clear, it is unclear how all of this will be funded. The UK has a competitive advantage, especially in areas driven by advanced research and innovation. Capitalising on that advantage with investment and other support, can drive the green economy, skills, and the creation of new well-paid jobs.”
Explore some of the Royal Society's key work around climate change in the run up to COP26, the United Nation's climate change conference.