Politics

‘Cut down on flying and driving!’ Now Tony Blair wades into huge climate change row

Climate change: Boris Johnson's 'targets' questioned by Menon

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Boris Johnson wants a “net-zero” Britain by 2050 that includes banning gas boilers in homes and sales of new petrol and diesel cars as part of wide-ranging climate change plans. Now a new report from the Tony Blair Institute has questioned whether meeting this legally binding target in just under three decades will require a “total transformation” of people’s daily lives. The think tank has claimed behavioural changes that will be required over the next 15 years to meet this milestone will be “relatively limited”.

Living standards would not be impacted in order for emissions savings to hit the target needed, the report said.

The report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change says the average distance number of kilometres travelled by each person via plane would only need to drop marginally by around six percent from 2019 to 2035.

Drivers would need to travel four kilometres less each over this same 16-year period, although six in 10 cars would need to be electric by the end of 2035.

The authors of the report, which include Tim Lord, former director of clean growth at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), studied scenarios predicted by the Climate Change Committee.

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The recommended alterations to flying, driving and meat consumption are based on the committee’s “balanced pathway” scenario for meeting the government’s climate targets.

The report states: “It is not necessary for everyone to stop flying – in fact, we need to reduce average kilometres travelled per person by plane by around six percent between 2019 and 2035.

“We do not all need to become vegetarian; on the CCC’s pathway, meat and dairy consumption reduces by around 20 percent in 15 years.

“We do not need to stop using cars – kilometres travelled per driver need fall by only around five percent.

“This is not, of course, to argue that there may not be other reasons to advocate for more significant behaviour change – but it is not required to meet net-zero.”

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change report does however warn four two-fifths of UK homes should make the shift to low-carbon heating systems by 2035.

But this could spark a backlash from millions of Britons, as the main alternatives would be expensive electric heat pumps or hydrogen boilers that despite being cheaper to install, would be most more costly to operate.

The report from the institute “while our targets cannot be achieved without significant behaviour change, the number of behaviour changes that really matter is relatively limited.

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“It is not the case that net-zero requires total transformation in all aspects of our lives.

“There is a relatively small number of key behaviour changes that will deliver most of the necessary emission reductions.

It notes in the decade from 2009 to 2019: “87 percent of emission reductions were delivered through measures requiring no behaviour change – in particular the decarbonisation of our power sector.

“But that proportion falls to just 41 percent from 2020 to 2035, and emissions savings from behaviour change (either “pure” behaviour change, or via deployment and use of new technologies) rises from 13 per cent to 59 percent”.

One of the biggest changes required by tens of millions of Britons to meet the “net-zero” target would be centred around home heating, with Downing Street insisting the number of electric heat pumps installed each year would have to jump significantly form 35,000 in 2020 to 600,000 in 2028.

The Prime Minister is facing a Tory rebellion over his net-zero ambitions, with fears it will hit poorer voters in former “Red Wall” areas who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said ministers “to try and help people make that transition” when asked about the expense to consumers of scrapping gas boilers.

But he admitted he was “concerned” about a £20 billion hole in the public finances created by a loss of fuel duty through the switch to electric cars.

Rishi Sunak is reportedly drawing up plans for richer households to take the bigger hit from green changes.

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