Friday 29 November 2019 4:27 am

DEBATE: Is Extinction Rebellion’s target of net-zero emissions by 2025 economically viable?

Is Extinction Rebellion’s target of net-zero emissions by 2025 economically viable?

Zion Lights, a science communicator and editor of Extinction Rebellion newspaper The Hourglass, says YES.

It’s an odd question — if we don’t achieve net-zero emissions sooner than the current target of 2050, we risk committing ourselves to potential economic collapse.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has warned that global warming could cause another 2008-like economic crisis, and that the longer we delay lowering emissions, the greater that collapse will be.

Recent projections show that large areas of the world will be flooded annually by 2050. In Britain, similar models show the frightening reality of coastal flooding changing the UK landscape. Dr Scott Kulp, lead author of the latter research, says it is not too late to take action to prevent the worst of what’s to come. By 2050, it will be.


Since economic growth is one of the main drivers for rising emissions, there is plenty of research demonstrating that degrowth needs to be part of a global strategy to tackle climate change.

The real question is this: why aren’t we doing everything we can to bring the 2050 target forward, when the climate crisis will cost us so much?

Richard Howard, co-author of the “Costing the Earth” report by the think tank Onward, says NO.

One thousand, eight hundred and twenty five days. That is all the time that Extinction Rebellion thinks we need to eliminate the carbon emissions of every home, car and aeroplane in the land.

The consequences of climate change are serious and we must act quickly, but a 2025 target is impossible to deliver.

If we spread the estimated £1 trillion cost over five years, it would be £200bn a year — nine per cent of GDP. You could have an extra NHS for that, with the total schools budget in change. There is scant evidence that taxpayers and households are willing to stump up the bill.

It would also be wildly impractical. We would need to replace more than six million petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles each year — three times the number that currently roll off factory floors worldwide — and recruit 270,000 extra plumbers to install high-efficiency heat pumps in people’s homes.


Parliament’s timetable to deliver net-zero by 2050 is right. Let’s tackle climate change without it costing us the earth.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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