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The United Kingdom will be unable to reach climate neutrality before 2050 unless significant lifestyle and societal changes are made, according to a new report from Energy Systems Catapult (ESC).

The government-funded report “Innovating to Net Zero” warns that technological advancements and climate change investments alone will not be enough to reach the UK’s goal of going climate neutral by 2050.

Rather, citizens must drastically limit their consumption of meat and dairy and cut back on air travel. Production of meat and dairy will need to be reduced by at least 50%

Not only is meat production one of the leading causes of deforestation, but it is also a major contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions

Significantly reducing meat and dairy production will help to mitigate these effects.

In 2019, the Committee on Climate Change calculated that decreasing meat and dairy consumption by 20% would thwart the production of 8 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2050. 

Vegetarian salad bowl.
Vegetarian salad bowl.
Image: Anna Pelzer/Unsplash

“Achieving net zero significantly earlier than 2050 in our modelling exceeds even our most speculative measures, with rates of change for power, heat, and road transport that push against the bounds of plausibility,” the report reads

The report urges the government to invest in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and nuclear power technologies to reduce carbon emissions.These measures will help get the UK back on track to go climate neutral within the next three decades. 

The ESC also recommends relying on wind and solar power for electricity generation and calls for the implementation of modular nuclear reactors to heat homes and buildings in cities. 

Offshore wind farm off the coast of Norfolk, United Kingdom.
Offshore wind farm off the coast of Norfolk, United Kingdom.
Image: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash

While it offers up some hope of reaching the UK’s 2050 goal of attaining climate neutrality, the report also remains skeptical, claiming that both the government and individuals might not be so eager to implement these new changes and policies. 

“Early evidence suggests a general willingness to adopt new technologies (such as new heating or mobility) as long as these can deliver the same experiences as before,” the report said. “Conversely, approaching the subject of dietary change or aviation often elicits a more resistant and emotional response.”

The report’s author, Scott Milne, views this as an opportunity for the UK to position itself as a leader on climate change, noting that no matter what changes are made, reaching net zero is the ultimate goal.


Defend the Planet

The UK Won't Meet Its Goal to Be Climate Neutral by 2050 Without Drastic Societal Changes

By Catherine Caruso