The Committee on Climate Change today urged ministers to set a new legal target for eliminating almost all greenhouse gas emissions.
Its report calls for wholesale changes to energy generating infrastructure and big changes to new buildings and improvements to existing buildings.
This will require a switch away from fossil-fuel based heating, increasing the energy efficiency of the building stock, and improving the energy efficiency of lighting and electrical appliances.
The transition to green heat technologies is expected to cost around £15bn per year up to 2050.
This would require widespread use of heat pumps to replace boilers and accelerating district heating and hydrogen technologies.
The report urges that low carbon heating must be a key element in the Treasury’s up-coming cost review.
The Government today welcomed the report from its independent adviser on climate change issues, but held back from immediately accepting its recommendations.
Energy secretary Greg Clark said: “To continue the UK’s global leadership we asked the Committee on Climate Change to advise the Government on how and when we could achieve net zero. This report now sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.
He added: ” We are not immediately accepting the recommendations set out in the CCC’s detailed report but will be responding in due course to ensure the UK continues to be a world leader in tackling climate change.”
The report was greeted as a pivotal moment for the country, requiring government to put in place policies and money to achieve the 2050 target.
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UK Green Building Council, said: “Today’s report marks a watershed moment in our efforts to tackle climate change. The UK must take responsibility as a global leader to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the building sector has a crucial role to play in this transition.
“This will require all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 and all existing ones by 2050 – which will require outstanding levels of energy efficiency alongside zero carbon electricity and heat supplies.”
She added: “UKGBC is busy galvanising the industry, having launched a net zero carbon buildings framework earlier this week which has already been warmly received by many businesses in the sector.
“But this ambitious objective can only be achieved with the help of strong policy drivers.
“The Government must urgently confirm the details underpinning the Future Homes Standard for new homes in 2025, along with similar standards for non-domestic buildings.
“Simultaneously, a co-ordinated national infrastructure programme for energy efficiency and heat must be established to improve our existing buildings and minimise costs of the transition for householders.”