Net zero transition and the impact on households

Net zero transition

Net zero transition of households will require raft of key measures including decarbonising buildings, new regulation and a new cultural mindset, according to the Net Zero Foundation.

Net zero transition of households could save billons of pounds in an era of rapidly increasing energy costs with decarbonising of buildings the key challenge for the 2020s. Policy makers should focus on energy efficiency, according to the report ‘Shrinking Footprints’ by Adam Corlett and Jonathan Marshall at the Net Zero Foundation.

Expectation that widespread rollout of heat pumps in existing homes won’t get underway until the 2030s gives the Government time to deliver on its plan to drive down costs before the majority of households switch from gas boilers as part of UK’s net zero transition. The benefits of achieving this are vast, potentially cutting more than £135 billion from the investment costs associated with net zero.

Rapid change is well underway in the UK’s vehicle stock with electric car sales well ahead of even the most ambitious projections. As such, it is only a matter of time until more affordable vehicles appear in the second-hand market. At the same time, continued innovation and scaling up will see more downward pressure on vehicle costs

Access to at-home, off-street parking will be the key factor in households being able to bank savings from cheaper electric driving. As well as richer households having better parking provision, 81 per cent of owner occupiers can tap into cheap at-home charging, compared with just 51 per cent of private renters, according to the net zero transition report.

All drivers will save on running costs when making the switch from petrol to electric cars, but those able to plug in to overnight tariffs at home will save around £950 per year, compared to less than £400 for drivers using an average public charger

Drivers face uneven access to the public charging network, with private investment currently following demand. While this brings short term risk of slowing the take up of electric cars in some areas, over time the market will ensure that charging blackspots are filled.

Reducing meat and dairy consumption is vital to reduce emissions in net zero transition but policy makers should encourage alternatives rather than use price signals such as taxes to drive change. Some dietary change is already taking place, but the Government could spur this on, for example through public procurement.

Technological change and investment are not the only changes needed in the medium-term, and behavioural change will need to include constraining aviation growth as part of net zero transition.

Growth in aviation demand, an activity heavily skewed towards richer households, is key in ensuring that the high carbon activities of a small minority do not lead to societal costs for larger parts of society. Compared with dietary change, use of the price signal would be welcome in incentivising behaviour change

In the cases of heating and driving, the route to decarbonisation is a technological one. But technological solutions are not going to be able to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in every sector by 2050, and so a second major challenge is to limit demand for those goods and services that still contribute to global warming by changing patterns of consumption. Most notably, that includes flying and food, which will account for the majority of households’ gross greenhouse gas footprints by 2050.

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