climate change

UK commits to 2050 zero-carbon target as new legislation passes into law

Image credit: pa

A law enshrining the UK’s commitment to reaching 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050 has been passed, making it the first country to pass firm legislation towards such a target, the Government announced.

The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least an 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels.

Hitting net zero - a 100 per cent cut in emissions - will mean an end to heating of homes with traditional gas boilers, more green electricity and a switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles, walking and cycling.

It also means that industries where the total elimination of emissions is impossible with current technology, such as long-distance aviation, will require action to offset the carbon emissions.

This could include programs such as mass tree plantings or using technology like carbon capture and storage.

Yesterday, the international development secretary and former Conservative leadership contender Rory Stewart warned that the livelihoods of billions of workers are at risk from climate change.

The Committee on Climate Change told the Government the move would be in line with commitments to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels under the international Paris Agreement and will provide leadership for other countries on tackling climate change.

A recent letter leaked to the Financial Times showed the Treasury warning the PM that making the shift to a zero-carbon economy would cost at least £1tr.

However, the committee also said it will cost around 1-2 per cent of annual economic output up to 2050 - the same as predicted a decade ago for the 80 per cent target - while the price of inaction would be many times higher.

The legislative move comes in the wake of increasingly severe warnings from scientific experts about the impact of rising global temperatures and the need for “unprecedented” action to curb the problem.

The climate emergency has also been rising up the public agenda, with youngsters walking out of classes and lectures for school strikes, the Extinction Rebellion protests and a mass lobby of MPs by constituents on Wednesday.

Energy minister Chris Skidmore said: “The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe, but also for increasing emissions.

“Today, we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, while remaining committed to growing the economy - putting clean growth at the heart of our modern industrial strategy.”

The Government hopes other countries will follow suit and has pledged a review within five years to ensure other nations are taking similarly ambitious action and that British industries are not facing unfair competition.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles