The Climate Change Act 2008 commits the UK to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. While the overall goal for 2050 is clear, there are huge uncertainties as to exactly which technologies we will need, and in what combination, to meet this target. In particular, predicting costs out to 2050 is very uncertain – we do not know exactly which technologies will reduce significantly in price over the next 35 years and which will remain the same, and which will turn out to be the easiest and most socially acceptable to deploy.
In order to take account of this uncertainty, the Government developed a range of illustrative scenarios for decarbonising the economy to 2050, including a central “cost effective” pathway based on current central cost estimates, which were set out in the 2011 Carbon Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-carbon-plan-reducing-greenhouse-gas-emissions--2). It is clear from these scenarios that decarbonising the UK economy will not depend on any single technology: we will need a balanced mix of low carbon technologies to help tackle the threat of climate change while keeping the lights on and ensuring the best value for consumers. The Government will be updating this analysis during 2016 when we set the level of the Fifth Carbon Budget and report on proposals and policies for meeting this, as required under the Climate Change Act 2008.