UK Net Zero 2050
Image credit: Wikimedia

Following urgent calls by the UK Committee on Climate Change, and the contents of its recent report “Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to global warming” outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the UK will aim for net zero emissions by 2050.

The legislation, an amendment to the country’s 2008 Climate Change Act, will be laid in parliament today will make the UK the first G7 country to commit a firm date to its transition. The previous version of the Act had a goal of 80%.

The Committee on Climate Change's report called for the country to quadruple its production of low carbon and renewable energy if it is to reach the target.

France has proposed similar legislation this year, whilst smaller countries, particularly in the Nordic region, have also made firm commitments but to even earlier dates, with Norway setting a target date of 2030, and Finland, 2045.

The difference between the two Scandinavian nations is that Norway will allow the purchase of carbon credits, an element the UK has also chosen to retain this option, which Greenpeace has warned will “shift the burden to developing nations”.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond also recently claimed that achieving the target date would cost the country £1 trillion, requiring cuts to public services budgets, but this was dismissed by 10 Downing street.

The government has said that the use of carbon credits “within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework” will allow the country to maximise the value of the investments required to meet the target date.

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Mrs May said: “As the first country to legislate for long term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions. Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

National business lobbying organisation, the Confederation of British Industry’s Director General, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “UK business stands squarely behind the government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis and firms are ready to play their part in combating it. Climate leadership can drive UK competitiveness and secure long term prosperity. This legislation must be followed by a commitment to long term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy.

“Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low carbon technologies and it is vital that there is cross-government co-ordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.”