Adam Brighty
April 2024

Assessing the synergies between net zero strategies and air quality in the UK

The emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and atmospheric pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, are intrinsically linked by the combustion of fuels. With the backdrop of the UK Climate Change Act, legally requiring the UK to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050, as well as ever-tightening air quality guidelines, the opportunity to achieve the largest air quality improvement whilst reaching net zero cannot be missed.

To investigate the climate and air quality impacts across i) a wide range of scenarios leading to net zero and ii) a host of energy system sectors (energy production, building heating, industrial combustion, road transport), a rapid assessment model has been created, known as the Climate and Air Pollution Synergies Assessment Model (CAPSAM). This tool takes its key air quality information from the UK Integrated Assessment Model (UKIAM) and is used in target setting work for Defra and other government departments.

Using the fast and malleable CAPSAM framework, we have been able to move away from ‘deterministic’ net zero scenarios to assess the uncertainty and sensitivity of inputs (e.g. scenario activity data and emission factors). Here, we present the ongoing research from this investigation, such as the model methodology, the assumptions required to assess future energy systems, and the key conclusions from the current work.