The launch of zerocarbonbritain2030 was an exciting moment for the Centre for Alternative Technology – hotly anticipated and eagerly awaited- it was always going to be controversial. After all, reducing your greenhouse gas emissions to zero ( in fact below zero) within 20 years is never going to be easy.
The launch of the report was covered by a wide variety of publications- from national and local newspapers, academic journals to widely read popular magazines and trade journals. In the media department it was frenetic, managing the enormous tide of enquiries that arrived in every day. One of the biggest areas of controversy has been the land use chapter. Notably the land use chapter calls for an 80% reduction in grazing livestock. The zero carbon Britain 2030 report shows that acre for acre grazing livestock produce more emissions yet provide the least nutritional value
The National Beef Association who represent farmers and those involved with the beef industry were naturally concerned by the massive cuts in the grazing livestock and the impacts that would have on farming life in the UK. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report shows how changes to land use will be radical but positive and see Britain grow far more of its own food and fuel, whilst creating greater energy, economic security and new rural jobs. The report proposes a reduction in grazing livestock because logic and evidence compel it, not for any other reason. There will still be meat but less of it. The task at hand with zerocarbonbritain2030 report was to demonstrate that it is possible to bring British net greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
A similar controversy of the report is the two thirds reduction in aviation, whilst the era of cheap flights has made life far more convienent and flitting back and forth between countrie sand traveling distances makes life easier,, aviation is responsible for huge amounts of carbon emissions. The zerocarbonbritain2030 report has found that it is possible through land use management to grow the crops needed to produce the kerosene in the UK. Orginally the press team hoped to launch the report at the TUC building in London in order to draw the links between a transition to a zero carbon society and increase in jobs that this would create. However aviation unions within the TUC were unwilling to be linked to a report that demands such a reduction and another venue had to be sought.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Centre for Alternative Technology were hosted by the Guardian online to debate land-use, farming and food. The CPRE claimed that following proposals of the report would mean a massive change in the British landscapes. Producing all our power at home would mean devoting 85% of England’s grazing land to large-scale biomass plantations. They suggested that nearly a quarter of England would no longer be covered by the familiar pattern of meadows and pastures which defines many valued English landscapes. Our response was that zerocarbonbritain2030 is about creating energy security, rural jobs and tackling climate change. It also increases food security. The benefits include many things the CPRE values: rural jobs, biodiversity and locally produced food. But it does result in a landscape that looks very different.
All of these debates are important and there are many more to be had in the transition to a low carbon society. Zerocarbonbritain2030 is just one of many possible scenarios – there are many other mixes- some that include more meat but less aviation or more aviation but less meat- the mix is endless.
As we move towards a zero carbon society there are difficult choices that we need to make. Things are going to change – be it through a change in climate or changes we introduce in order to combat climate change and deal with energy and economic security. The global consequences to humanity of not taking measures now to reduce our carbon emissions and keep temperatures well below 2 degrees will be devastating. We all have a role to play- it is important that we understand the debates in which we engage and the consequences of not taking action