Residents in the United Kingdom would have to consider a radical change in their lifestyles, if they want to enjoy a pollution-free and greener future, a report prepared by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), has said.
According to the report, the lifestyle changes could include having vegetarian meals, running battery- operated cars and avoiding affordable flights.
Paul Allen, CAT's Development Director, was quoted by the Scotsman as saying that if these radical steps are taken, the United kingdom could be carbon neutral within the next two decades.
"What we are saying is that we need a huge programme, a bit like the US space project in the Sixties. When that was launched it was known to be a huge target, but the driving force to make it work was there. We think that zero carbon Britain can do that again - it can give us a positive future. It is a political challenge but we had the political will power to abolish slavery even though lots of people said that would cost the economy too much," Allen said.
The authors of the report define a zero carbon economy as one in which fossil fuels are not burned, or in which all emissions from fossil fuels are prevented from entering the atmosphere.
The UK government has set a target of cutting 60 per cent of carbon emissions by 2050, which is higher than many other countries. But the CAT believes this is not enough.
In its report, the CAT suggests creating a market for carbon that affects every individual, household and company in the country. People would be given their own carbon credits called Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) and carry them on smart cards.
Each year the free allocation would decrease as the country moves towards zero carbon, with the effect that the value of the quotas will go up. But every time consumers use fossil fuels, say by filling their cars up with petrol, they would lose these valuable credits, forcing them to choose low carbon alternatives.
Among the major effects would be that electric, battery-operated cars would quickly overtake use of the internal combustion engine. Households would be forced to invest in ways to make their homes energy efficient, and switch from gas to biofuels or renewable electricity.
But there would also be "negative" effects in terms of the lifestyle that people enjoy. Air travel would become far too expensive unless the industry "pulls something out of the hat" and finds a green fuel.
And the diet of the country would have to change to include much more organically-grown, locally-produced vegetables, and less meat.
The result of the new "carbon economics" would be to cut energy use by half, and this new demand would then be met entirely by a green supply.
Tens of thousands of wind turbines would be built, mainly around Britain's shores, to provide 50 per cent of the country's new energy needs. The rest would come from a combination of biofuel "combined heat and power" stations, wave power, hydroelectricity and tidal schemes.
Nuclear power could provide some of the demand at first, but the authors do not suggest building more nuclear power stations because of the cost and targets they provide to terrorists.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said "The solutions put forward in this report could slash carbon emissions. There would need to be a major step change in political and public thinking."