2030 – a partial utopia?

Boiling the kettle remains much the same, but behind this simple act are a range of new forces.

It seems inevitable now that 2020 was going to be an eventful year. Mostly for the wrong reasons. However, for many climate activists, 2019 has been by far the more eventful year, with 2020 stuck in a Covid-related holding pattern. This isn’t quite true however – renewables have soared, and not just because of reduced electrical demand, to be the UK’s largest source of power this year (so far). The citizen’s climate assembly has concluded its results only last week, the government is mulling over new plans to decarbonise transport, climate related economic recovery policies are cropping up all over the world, coal continues its worldwide death spiral, hydrogen has had a leap forward and even housing retrofits have had a new lease of life this year. However, this is all far away from the green utopia of which we are all dreaming, leading to the question – what will it all look like in ten years time? For the talk of goals and targets for future years, we don’t often take the thought experiment of what the future will look like directly.

It’s New Year’s Day, 2030. You wake up in a warm bedroom, despite the overnight storm. Your house is one of those upgraded as part of a retrofit package, which have got increasingly generous over the last decade. You’ve barely thought about the invisible cavity wall and loft insulation upgrades since they were put in a few years ago, especially as everyone eligible in the country has been offered them. More noticeable as you walk downstairs is the heat pump, which you turn down now you’re up. While many people have them now – in fact, they no longer sell old gas boilers, so you have to buy them if your heating needs replacing – it’s taken a long time to get them going, and gas is still the most common form of heating. You remember the shock of replacing the radiators and the disruption to the house when it was first installed, but since, the pump has been quiet and efficient. It’s also cheap, for the electricity supplying it has been much more affordable now that the grid runs almost exclusively off renewable energy, nuclear power, storage and interconnected grids, the storm of the night undeniably feeding in to the dominant form of offshore wind power. You make breakfast, turn on the TV, and start the kettle for a cup of tea. Unbeknownst to you, the new kettle you bought a month ago is made from recycled steel, part of a new drive to reuse industrially intensive resources. If it breaks, you have an app for that, part of a new drive to reuse common household items that’s taken off recently. After breakfast, you call for a rental car to go and visit your family. With more bus and rail links than there used to be, you don’t really need to own a car in many parts of cities and towns, but with reduced services on New Years, it’s one of those times where it pays to have a car on hand. Driving off in your fully electric vehicle, smart systems inside alert you to battery status and the different types of chargers nearby and available. You’re running short of time, so stop off at an ultra-rapid charger at a ‘petrol’ station. Five minutes later and with a fully charged battery you continue on, passing predominantly electric cars, vans, and even an electric lorry. The majority of the cars on the road are electric now, but petrol and diesel cars still have a noticeable presence, even if you can’t buy them anymore from today. With a few miles to go, your mind drifts, and you think about what 2040 will bring.

This is all hypothetical of course. Many will be angry this vision doesn’t include a completely carbon neutral UK, or conversely that everything above is wishful thinking that can’t possibly be expected to take place. Both viewpoints are wrong – it will be virtually impossible to decarbonise areas like flights and heating in the next decade, but equally radical cuts in electricity and road transport are possible with technologies and industries already available to us. It’s also not a completely optimistic view of the future – the storm that hangs over the vision could be fuel for wind turbines or an extreme weather event, depending on interpretation. My vision for 2030 is that of a partial low carbon utopia. One where serious action has been taken on climate change, and emissions are less than half of what they are today, with a lot of new technologies and ideas embraced in a relatively short space of time. Yet there is no denying, not everything can be done in the next ten years, as much as I would like it to be. The 2020s are the critical decade for the climate fight, but they will not end it, only do a majority of the damage to our opponent. If we cannot claim a green utopia in a decade, then we must do everything in our power to claim – a partial utopia.


Let’s clean up transport – right now!

UPDATE: This consultation has concluded – thank you everyone that submitted and shared your views! Now let’s see what the end result is in the coming months.

It’s easy to feel powerless and separated from the world during these difficult times. The world has effectively ground to a halt with the Covid19 lockdown, but the challenge of climate change lives on, lurking quietly behind the pandemic. If you’re wondering what to do with the self-isolation, how does fighting climate change from the comfort of your own home sound? All it takes to clean up our roads is a simple email.

The Department for Transport and Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV for short) still have an open consultation on when to phase out sales of petrol and diesel cars. DecarboniseNow have submitted our evidence already and will be here to help the department phase out our unfit-for-purpose cars and vans. But OLEV wants your views, and now is unique chance to get involved.

EV chargingThe government currently has a ‘mission’ (not a properly enforced ban) to phase out sales by 2040. This consultation is aiming to change that to 2035, and include banning hybrid vehicles, which still use oil for fuel. While this is a big improvement, the earliest that industry and environmental campaigns alike have discovered that a sales ban could be brought in is 2030. While five years might not sound like much, not only is delaying clean transport by five years needlessly wrong, but it would actually reduce emissions twice as fast as a 2035 date, and three times as fast as a 2040 one. Road transport is also the biggest source of emissions in the UK, and accounts for over a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions. The 2035 date is also not set in stone, and a 2040 date could still be the one that the government goes for. We must make our voices heard, and accelerate the switchover to cleaner transport.

Help us in the race to clean up our roads. The consultation is open until Friday the 31st of July, and we need you!Click this link to be taken to the consultation page. Write an email to the address provided, and let them know you care about a low carbon future. Can’t think what to write, or don’t have time to put it into your own words? We’ve got you covered – below is an example letter of the kind of things you can copy and paste (just don’t forget to write your name). If you want references for any of these facts, or would just like further reading, click here. If you want more information about our electric vehicles campaign, click here.

Cleaning up transport is one of the biggest things we can do right now to fight climate change. By writing in, you’re part of the team that beat climate change. Thanks for your help, and take care!


Ban on sales of conventional vehicles by 2030

Dear Office for Low Emission Vehicles,

The UK has an existential and immediate need to reduce emissions to combat climate change. The largest source of emissions is surface transport, at 23% of the UK’s emissions. The earliest possible technically feasible and societally acceptable phase out date must be implemented, which has been highlighted by National Grid, the Committee on Climate Change and the National Infrastructure Commission and many others as 2030. The 2030 ban should extend to all petrol and diesel cars and vans, and include all hybrid electric vehicles, which risk breaching long term emission goals.

Impacts of a 2030 ban include;

-A 2030 ban on conventional vehicles reduces emissions twice as quickly as a 2035 date and three times as fast as 2040.

-National Grid have stated that the UK grid could transition as easily to a 2030 ban as a 2040 one, and would actively support a 2030 ban.

-A 2030 ban saves the economy more than a 2035 or 2040 ban, up to £20bn.

-The automotive industry plans 5-8 years ahead for new car models, and can integrate 2030 more easily into its plans.

-Fully electric cars already have lower lifetime costs than conventional models and will be cheaper to buy upfront by 2025 at the latest, making them the cheapest option well before 2030.

-Over 100,000 UK based jobs could be in electric vehicle production by 2030 if the ban is brought forward and boosts the British car industry.

Barriers to a 2030 ban include;

-Scaling up manufacturing of electric vehicles.

-Political risk and misleading information about electric vehicles.

-Slower rates of adding charging points.

-The electric grid will also need investment for upgrades.

Measures required to reduce these include;

-The 2030 ban must be more binding than the current 2040 mission, and have mandatory sales targets for electric cars for each company, with these increasing every year until 2030.

-Grants for electric cars should continue out to 2025 and increase if needed. VAT should be cut for electric vehicles, which the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimates could save £5,600 per vehicle. Factories and production facilities should receive tax relief.

-Yearly targets for public charging infrastructure should be implemented alongside electric vehicle sales targets, and driver payment options standardised.

-The government must source the required investment  for electric grid reinforcement, and align regulatory requirements for ‘smart charging’ wherever possible.

Yours sincerely,

From manufacturing to planting trees – new campaigns!

Siemens 2.3 Megawatt Floating Offshore Wind Turbine

Visit our website today, and you might see some changes. That’s because DecarboniseNow is expanding its activities. From today, we will now be running five campaign streams across multiple sectors to fight climate change in the UK.

Electric vehicles

With transport emissions remaining the highest of any sector, and the enormous potential of electric vehicles to slash that, electric transport remains our top priority. Not only do we want to see a 2030 ban on conventional cars and vans, but we want to make sure that the strongest incentives exist for a rapid transition away from oil fuelled cars and vans. To do this want to;

-Implement a binding ban by 2030 on petrol and diesel cars and vans, including hybrids.

-Roll out stronger purchase incentives for electric vehicles, such as continuing and potentially increasing the plug in car grant and temporarily scrapping VAT on electric vehicles. Also ensure that automotive companies are required to produce a certain number of electric vehicles to move in the UK market.

-Ensuring that charging infrastructure keeps pace with this rollout, and that the electrical grid gets the reinforcement capacity it needs to upgrade for electric transport.

-Introduce fiscal incentives for electric and hydrogen HGVs.

Find out more here.

Warmer buildings

Arguably, the buildings sector has made the least progress out of any sector in the UK on reducing emissions in recent years. This is largely due to falling rates of installations of energy efficiency measures in UK homes. The government must be bold and turn this around with an ambitious home retrofit programme, slashing fuel poverty and improving living standards for millions in the process. Even with the most efficient housing stock, it is still inevitable that the UK will have to switch away from its addiction to fossil fuel heating. The UK will have to make tough decisions on whether to electrify its heating or switch to hydrogen gas – or a combination of the two. With millions of homes connected to the gas grid, this will be an enormous challenge, and is one of the biggest barriers to reducing the UK’s total emissions. We propose;

-The government currently has a target for all homes to be EPC Band C or higher by 2035, and a preferred trajectory for all non-domestic rented buildings to be EPC Band B by 2030. We want the government to commission a major government review on best practise to implement this, and commit to the necessary funding required.

-Ensure a successful implementation of low carbon heating in all new homes from 2025 or sooner.

-Ensure all off gas grid homes are switched over to heat pumps by 2030.

Find out more here.

Renewable energy

The backbone of decarbonisation, renewable energy has already taken off in the UK, defying critics to deliver a third of our electricity and going from the most expensive form of energy to the cheapest. But past successes don’t mean we can allow a job well done – the last surviving coal plants and a large fleet of gas turbines still power the UK. Ambitions plans for offshore wind power must be met with good plans for onshore wind and solar, and well as ensuring that the plans for all three turn into reality on the ground over the next decade. To avoid relying on gas to keep the lights on, we must also invest in a more flexible electricity grid that can take more variable energy flows. We must;

-Ensure government contracts provide the best deal for subsidy free onshore wind and solar.

-Ensure the deployment of the 40GW offshore wind target goes smoothly.

-Introduce a flexibility market for storage, demand side response, and other technologies to avoid relying on gas turbines for assistance power.

-Keep the UK in the pan-European Internal Energy Market, to ensure our imports and exports of wind power deliver value as cheaply as possible.

Find out more here.

Efficient manufacturing

Industrial emissions are a patchwork sector, and will require a very wide range of solutions to tackle. But making sure it’s simply used more efficiently will be a huge boost, both for emissions reductions and economic productivity. Ensuring that manufactured products are also used more efficienctly, such as being easier to repair and having longer lifetimes, will greatly reduce industrial emissions and waste. We propose;

-Introducing greater policy incentives to match the government’s 20% industrial energy efficient target for 2030.

-Implement resource efficiency standards, especially in notable wasteful sectors such as the automotive industry and construction.

Find out more here.


Planting more trees might seem like an obvious option, but the sheer scale and land required is a major challenge. Currently 13% of the UK is forested, and ‘hard to treat’ sectors such as the agricultural and aviation sectors are very reliant on the UK offsetting future emissions. If this land was doubled to 25% of the UK’s land area, this would offer the maximum feasible extent of forest cover, and do the most to capture the UK’s carbon emissions, and create space for nature. Therefore our goal is;

-For the UK to set a target for 25% of the UK to be forested by 2045, with relevant funding and planting rates per year supplied.

Find out more here.

There’s going to be a lot of movement in the run up to the UN climate summit in Glasgow this year. So making sure that the UK is doing everything it can on the home front will be vital to show the world how to decarbonise and how we can end climate change for good.