Queen's Speech 2019 mark 2

Queen’s speech confirms Government’s 2050 net-zero target

Image credit: REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool

Following last week’s UK general election, Parliament has been re-opened with a Queen’s speech laying out the Conservative government’s agenda for the year ahead.

The Queen's speech, which contained no surprises, focused first and foremost on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It also covered several other policies laid out in the Conservative Party manifesto, including measures aiming to help “every region of the UK [to prosper]”, such as investments in infrastructure and innovation.

“My Government will prioritise investment in infrastructure and world-leading science research and skills, in order to unleash productivity and improve daily life for communities across the country”, the Queen said.

The speech specified that the government would increase tax credits for research and development, establish a National Skills Fund and adapt business rates. It also mentioned that the government would put forward legislation to “accelerate” the delivery of gigabit capable broadband; one of Johnson’s non-Brexit-related elections pledges was to deliver full-fibre broadband to every home and business by 2025 with £5bn funding to help connect premises that are not commercially viable. However, a Commons Committee has warned that the plan has failed to “grasp the extent” of the digital divide in the country.

The Queen’s speech also reiterated the Conservative Party’s target of 2050 for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“My Government will continue to take steps to meet the world-leading target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It will continue to lead the way in tackling global climate change, hosting the COP26 Summit in 2020,” the Queen read. “To protect and improve the environment for future generations, a bill will enshrine in law environmental principles and legally binding targets, including for air quality.”

“It will ban the export of polluting plastic waste to countries outside the [OECD] and establish a new, world-leading independent regulator in statute.”

The Conservative Party received criticism in the run-up to the election on account of its comparatively unambitious decarbonisation pledge of 2050 for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The Labour Party had pledged a transformation of the economy to reach near net-zero by 2030 (with 90 per cent of electricity needs met by renewables and low-carbon sources) while the Liberal Democrats aimed to meet 80 per cent of energy needs from renewables by 2030 and phase out emissions from hard-to-treat sectors by 2045.

None of the main three parties expressed an ambition aligned with the 2025 target demanded by environmental campaign movement Extinction Rebellion.

Countries with more ambitious decarbonisation targets include Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Norway, while the UK shares its 2050 target - advised by the Committee on Climate Change - with France, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, New Zealand, Chile, and Costa Rica.

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