A vision of zero carbon Britain in just 20 years by Juliette Jowit

16/6/2010 Guardian   It’s 2030, only 20 years from now:you have driven to work, there is a roast in the oven for dinner and you are considering taking your partner to India to visit family later in the year. So far, so normal, but this is also a vision of a zero-carbon Britain, where not a single gram of the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming and climate change is emitted to power our lives.

Some of the changes are invisible, many more are obvious. Cars are electric, and many drivers borrow from car clubs or lease rather than own them. Airlines no longer fly short distances and long-haul trips are a rare treat.

Workers from traditional heavy-energy industries such as steel or cement need to retrain to work on insulating millions of buildings or go back on the land. Dinner may be a roast, but it is poultry or pork because rearing lamb or beef would take up too much land and emit too many greenhouse gases. Mangoes and bananas are a luxury, as food imports have been halved. The landscape of Britain looks different: instead of green cattle pastures there are millions more acres devoted to vegetables and grain, and trees for biofuel and buildings.

This picture of Zero Carbon Britain in 2030 is painted in a report published today by the Centre for Alternative Technology. It is backed by four universities and the Met Office, and experts including Sir John Houghton, former co-chair of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change.
It claims that in just two decades, the country can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 637m tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Nine-tenths of this would be achieved by ending wasteful uses of energy, increasing renewable electricity and heating, and transforming land use and farming. The remaining tenth, or 67m tonnes, would be offset by capturing the equivalent emissions from the atmosphere by growing willow, ash, pine, oak and other trees on land freed up by the near-abolition of animal grazing.

Despite setting a more ambitious timetable than demanded of Britain, the pace and scale of the transition are “entirely possible”, said Viki Johnson of the New Economics Foundation, one of the report’s authors. “ The solutions exist – what has been missing to date is the political will to implement them.”

The blueprint envisages mass insulation of homes and offices, with smaller, easier-to-heat rooms; electric or biofuel vehicles; much less flying and driving and more public transport; generating a lot more renewable electricity using a range of clean sources, especially offshore wind, but no nuclear power; and a “revolution” in diets to cut out a huge source of methane from livestock and free land to grow biofuels and crops
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