Baroness Brown: ‘Green Revolution’ can raise GDP, but acceleration is essential

26 July 2022


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Crossbench member of the House of Lords calls for technology acceleration to meet net zero targets

  • Delivering net zero by 2050 could raise GDP by 2% – in comparison to the 2% reduction forecast in 2008
  • UK around halfway towards 2050 net zero target, but the second half requires huge acceleration
  • COP27 hoped to restore climate change focus after pandemic

The new technologies and skills associated with the UK government’s ‘Green Revolution’ to address climate change could increase the UK’s GDP by 2%. This figure was given by Professor Dame Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, DBE, delivering the keynote address at the SCI (Society of Chemical Industry) Summer Reception, citing work from Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.

In her address, Baroness Brown noted that in 2008 the UK was the first country to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – with a target of an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. In 2019, that target was extended to a 100% reduction – or net zero, as it has become known. Baroness Brown was pleased to note that by 2021 the UK was almost halfway there, with a 47% reduction in emissions – but acceleration of technologies will be essential to meeting the 2050 targets.

In 2008, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) estimated that it would cost 2% of GDP to deliver this target. This figure was reduced to 0.5% of GDP in the CCC’s 2019 analysis, and many economic analyses now suggest there could in fact be a 2% increase in GDP, owing to new green industries that could develop in the UK.

‘Every time we look, it gets cheaper and it gets easier, because of the science and technology that is supporting it,’ Baroness Brown said.

But as the UK begins to enact its first comprehensive Net Zero Strategy, published in October last year, Baroness Brown outlined the scale of the challenges ahead – 25 million electric cars needed by 2050, a doubling of low-carbon hydrogen production by 2030, capacity and technology to capture and store 180 megatons of CO2 by the end of the century, a 10% increase in agricultural productivity every decade, and finding ways to heat 30 million buildings in a low-carbon way.

‘And we still need to address the role of behaviour change when protecting the planet,’ added Baroness Brown. ‘It is cheaper to get people to change their behaviour [...] and essential for demand reduction.’ When asked for her views on this year’s COP27 event in Egypt, Baroness Brown said she hoped this would help to re-focus political and public attention on climate change targets.


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