It's 2030, only 20 years from now: you have driven to work, there is meat for dinner and you are considering taking your partner to India to visit family later in the year. So far, so normal, but this is also a vision of a zero carbon Britain: where not a single gram of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming and climate change are emitted to power our future lives.
There are changes, however, some invisible, many more obvious. Cars will be electric, and instead of owning them many drivers will borrow from car clubs or lease them. Airlines will no longer fly short distances, and long-haul trips will be a rare treat. Workers from more traditional heavy-energy industries like steel or cement will need to retrain to work in insulating millions of buildings or back on the land, possibly involving big social upheavals. Dinner might be a roast, but poultry or pork because lamb or beef rearing would take up too much land and emit too many greenhouse gases; while mango and bananas will be a luxury as food imports have been halved. And the very landscape of Britain will look different too: instead of green and pleasant fields with grazing Fresian cattle there will be millions more acres of vegetables and grain to eat, and trees for biofuels or buildings.
The vision of Zero Carbon Britain in 2030 is set out in a report published today by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), and backed by organisations including four universities and the Met Office, and experts including Sir John Haughton, former co-chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In just two decades it claims the nation can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 637m tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2007. Ninety percent of this would be achieved by eliminating the most wasteful uses of energy, increasing renewable electricity and heating, and transforming land use and farming. The remaining 10% or 67m tonnes would be "offset" by capturing the equivalent emissions from the atmosphere by growing willow, ash, pine, oak and other trees on land freed up by almost abolishing animal grazing.
Despite setting more ambitious timetables than demanded of Britain, the pace and scale of transition is "entirely possible", said Viki Johnson of the New Economics Foundation and one of the report's authors. "The solutions exist, what has been missing to date is the political will to implement them."
It was also an "ethical responsibility", said Alex Randall, a CAT spokesman. "We have had 150 years benefiting from burning fossil fuels: we have built our schools, hospitals, roads, and everything we need. By making our reductions quickly we allow some scope for less developed countries to use what's left, rather than hogging this for our continuing development."
The blueprint is divided into three key areas: mass insulation of homes and offices, smaller easier-to heat rooms, electric or biofuel vehicles, much less flying and driving and more public transport should cut energy from buildings and transport by 57%; generating a lot more renewable electricity using a range of clean sources, especially off-shore wind, but no nuclear power, should cut another huge tranche and generate millions of new jobs; and and free up land to grow biofuels and crops which "sequester" the remaining emissions from industry, soil degradation and other harder to eliminate sources.
But, as an example of how much change is needed to achieve this goal, the first electric car buyers' guide, released today by the Environmental Transport Association, has just three cars with more than two seats, with the cheapest being the £20,000 C1 ev'ie.