The UK DDPP analysis, published in 2015, recommended that if we were to push towards a net zero emissions system by the end of the century, as later stated in the Paris Agreement, we should also be evaluating pathways that take account of the post-2050 period. This recognises that we live in a world with a limited carbon budget, which necessitates that the energy system will need to be net-zero at some point in the future.

In their paper, published in the journal Nature Energy, the researchers found that pre-2050 rates of emission reductions need to be informed by a longer term net-zero objective. If not, they highlighted a real risk that insufficient action could result. They found that there was a gap between the aspirations of national climate policy and the more ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement that the UK government signed up to in December 2015.

Their research recommends that to pursue a climate target that reflects a fair contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change, this ambition gap must be closed by bolstering domestic climate targets to mandate a net-zero emissions energy system by 2070 and, prior to that, cutting emissions more rapidly than currently planned.

Earlier analysis in support of this paper has played a useful role in helping different stakeholders think through the implications of the Paris Agreement, and a net zero emission target. This includes the CCC, who published a report towards the end of 2016, on the Paris Agreement implications. They concluded that on balance in relation to a net zero target that it was ‘too early to do so now, but setting such a target should be kept under review.’ While the UK Government had already committed to putting a net zero target into law in early 2016, this has not been formulated in any policy proposals to date. A new climate strategy document is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2017.

This paper suggests that there is merit in considering a reframing of targets to strengthen ambition and establish a net-zero target by 2070. This would bring clarity to the ultimate long term objective of an ‘emission-free’ energy system, and help ensure that all strategic investments in infrastructure reflected this ambition.

An excellent write-up by Carbon Brief can be found at https://www.carbonbrief.org/uk-emissions-net-zero-2070-latest-study-says