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21 November 2018

UK can lead the way in stopping climate change by reaching ‘net zero’ emissions by 2045 - new report reveals

Ground-breaking emissions modelling commissioned by WWF demonstrates the UK can end its contribution to climate change in less than three decades

It is possible for the UK stop its contribution to climate change by 2045 but urgent action and a greater ambition are needed to achieve this, according to a new report released today by WWF.

It shows the UK can achieve “net zero” emissions by 2045 if it cuts emissions from power, transport and buildings deeper and faster, and continues trends towards reduced red and processed meat consumption. The UK must also continue international collaboration on areas such as aviation. Net zero is defined in the report as cutting our greenhouse gas emissions to as little as possible and then balancing the remainder by, for example, planting trees which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2018 revealed that wildlife populations have fallen on average by 60% since 1970, and identifies climate change as a growing threat to nature. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also recently found that the impacts of climate change on nature and people could be irreversible if the planet warms more than 1.5 degrees.

Cutting the UK’s emissions to net zero within the next three decades is an opportunity for the UK government to continue to show global leadership on tackling climate change, uniting nations to protect future generations, restore nature, and enable us to live within planetary boundaries. The UK government has already taken the welcome step of asking the Committee on Climate Change for advice on what achieving net zero could look like.

The new report, written by and based on modelling by Vivid Economics, comes as the UK celebrates 10 years of the world-leading Climate Change Act, and shows:

  • We need to continue and speed up deep cuts in emissions across power, transport and buildings;

  • Continued dietary shifts and cutting food waste can reduce emissions, and reduce the pressure on nature;

  • To reduce emissions in the field of aviation, international cooperation is essential. A regional agreement across Europe, as well as agreements with Japan, the USA and Australia, could feasibly save 10-15 MtC02 emissions (mega tonnes of carbon dioxide);

  • Aviation and shipping require further technological innovation to fully achieve the necessary targets to achieve zero emissions; and

  • Collaboration on research and development of new technologies is vital – and an opportunity for the UK to gain economic advantage from leading the way on clean growth.

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate Change, at WWF, said:

“Climate change is threatening life on our planet, and the time for action is now. The good news is, we now know that what needs to be done, can be done. Cutting the UK’s emissions by 2045 is an opportunity for the UK to show global leadership on tackling climate change.

“But the UK cannot fight for our world alone. We need a global deal for nature, to unite action for climate, nature and people. We must take the first step towards this by committing to end our contribution to climate change as soon as possible. Our report shows that we can do this by 2045.”

Ed Matthew, Coordinator of the Net-Zero Campaign for The Climate Coalition, said:

“The IPCC, the United Nations climate change experts, recently stated that to prevent the most catastrophic climate change the whole world must be zero carbon by 2050. This report is a beacon of hope because it provides robust, independent evidence showing that the UK can reach net-zero emissions by 2045.  There is a pathway for total de-carbonisation which is feasible, fast and packed full of economic opportunity. If the UK Government commits to this goal, we can inspire the world to follow.”

International flights cause 95 percent of aviation emissions attributed to the UK. The reduction of emissions in aviation is difficult, but not impossible through international action such as reductions in the number of flights, and an acceleration in innovation.



Copies of the report ‘Keeping it cool: how the UK can end its contribution to climate change’ available on request

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About ‘Keeping it cool: how the UK can end its contribution to climate change’

Commissioned by WWF-UK and created by VIVID Economics, this report is one of the first to show that it’s possible for the UK to achieve net zero emissions by 2045. It is a response to the IPCC report which highlighted the importance of keeping global emissions in line with 1.5 degrees. More information on that can be found here.  This report is part of WWF’s net-zero campaign. Full and summary versions of the report are available here from launch.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, active in nearly 100 countries. Our supporters – more than five million of them – are helping us to restore nature and to tackle the main causes of nature’s decline, particularly the food system and climate change. We’re fighting to ensure a world with thriving habitats and species, and to change hearts and minds so it becomes unacceptable to overuse our planet’s resources.

WWF. For your world.

For wildlife, for people, for nature.

Find out more about our work, past and present at

About Vivid Economics

Vivid Economics is a leading economic consultancy with global reach. It strives to create lasting value for its clients, both in government and the private sector, and society at large.  In all its work, it puts economics to good use by (i) addressing the public interest to enhance both clients’ interests and the public good; and, (ii) supporting important decisions and carrying the argument to implement them.