Zero Emissions by 2050: the Big Picture

Weds 17 November 2021

How can we reach zero emissions by 2050 using only the energy and technology that will be available in time?

Speaker: Dr Pippa Horton

Dr Pippa Horton is business manager to the UK FIRES programme, where she co-ordinates the industrial consortium and leads outward facing activities with industry, NGOs and Government. She worked for three years for Jaguar Land Rover, before completing a PhD with Professor Julian Allwood, exploring opportunities to reduce the 50% of their sheet metal purchasing which is currently scrapped, mainly as trimming waste.

A brief summary of the presentation

Dr Horton demonstrated an interesting and pragmatic approach to achieving zero emissions by 2050. It goes something like this:

  1. Without coal and gas, and with the amount of renewable energy we are likely to be able to produce, the amount of energy we will have is x
  2. If we don’t make big changes, the amount of energy we will want is y
  3. Subtract x from y and you get to the amount by which we need to reduce our energy consumption. And it’s about 40%

Given that “get out of jail free” cards such as carbon capture are not going to be fully tested and available in high volumes, these do not feature in the calculation.

She then takes each major consumer of energy (buildings, transport etc) in turn and looks at the realistic ways in which big savings can be made using ingenuity and imagination instead of new technology. Examples include smaller cars, better steel recycling, and using empty trains to transport parcels. There are huge opportunities for businesses that are willing to re-think and overturn assumptions. Why build new buildings when the old one could have been repurposed and why heat homes that leak when we could have insulated them properly?

What can we do?

The recording of Dr Horton’s presentation, and her answers to the audience’s questions is on Youtube.

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