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    UK Committee Sets Date for Net-Zero Carbon

Summary

Oil and gas producers are keen to play a part but stress the risk such an objective poses to UK energy security, supply and industrial competitiveness.

by: William Powell

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UK Committee Sets Date for Net-Zero Carbon

The independent UK Climate Change Committee recommends that the UK achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in a report published May 2. It means that carbon may be emitted but it must some how be offset, for example through carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technology, which is yet to prove commercial in the UK.

The CCC says this will "deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990."

However, this is only possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay. Current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets, it said.

The UK accounts for only 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions but a method for calculating emissions needs to be agreed and standardised globally – to take into account the manufacturing and transport of goods from exporter to importer, for example. These are not included in the CCC's analysis, according to the infographic it provides; but it allows the UK to hide its carbon 'budget'. 

Producers give cautious welcome

The offshore oil and gas producers' industry group Oil & Gas UK said it was "well placed to support the advancement of low carbon technology, in particular carbon capture usage and storage and extending the production and use of hydrogen."

It said its industry was "at the heart of a managed transition" towards a zero carbon future but that it had to be recognised that this would have a cost. It also warned of the risk such a policy would pose to UK industrial competitiveness, energy security and affordability of energy supply.

The report also confirms the role of home-produced oil and gas in enhancing the UK’s energy sovereignty and the level of production anticipated by the report is consistent with the industry’s own projections, OGUK said.

Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) said that the CCC’s recommendations assume, without onshore gas and oil production, there will be a considerable import dependency (as high as 86%) even under net zero conditions. A government report concludes that pre-combustion production, processing and transport of liquefied natural gas, (LNG),  generates double the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared with a domestic supply, it said.

UKOOG said: "We therefore believe the economic and environmental case for onshore gas and oil in the UK is as strong today as it ever has been."