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Materials & Manufacturing: Business growth in a transformative journey to zero emissions

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Cleaver, Christopher  ORCID logo
Horton, Philippa 


Facing the reality that new energy-sector technologies won’t solve climate change fast enough reveals rich opportunities for innovation and growth in UK materials and manufacturing sectors.

UK law commits us to zero emissions by 2050 with most of the reduction occurring by 2035. But we’re not on track to deliver. That’s because corporate and political strategy today is counting on new technologies, like carbon capture and storage, biofuels, hydrogen and negative emissions technologies to meet the challenge, while business elsewhere continues largely as usual. It isn’t going to happen in time. The new technologies are mainly still on drawing boards, and it takes time to deploy them at scale.

Instead, delivering zero emissions in reality by 2050 requires a different economy. It’s one that can deliver high quality lifestyles, but it’s an economy that will be powered only by emissions free electricity. We won’t have as much electricity as we’d otherwise like, so we’ll reduce our use of two-tonne cars and badly insulated houses, for example. For some time we’ll have to restrain our use of goods, like ruminants and cement, that can’t be electrified. But this new economy can deliver great lifestyles and great businesses.

In manufacturing, we won’t be able to access the same volumes of material as in the emitting past, but we have the opportunity for huge growth in the UK. The closure of high-emitting international freight will open up new demand for domestic production. The need to close the high-emitting material suppliers of the past creates new opportunities for electric materials production. The business of matching material supply to consumer demand for goods will transform and grow.



materials, manufacturing, zero emissions, climate mitigation, absolute zero, net zero, industry, opportunity

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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/S019111/1)