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Britain pledges ‘ambitious’ 68 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2030

Image credit: Arnold Paul

The UK has introduced a new target to cut carbon emissions by 68 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030, but green campaigners have warned that the move does not go far enough.

The new target is a stepping stone towards legally binding commitments made by the government last year to cut the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “ambitious” target will see the UK cutting emissions at the fastest rate of any major economy so far.

The plan comes just under a year before the COP26 climate talks are due to take place in Glasgow and ahead of the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December, which Britain is jointly hosting.

But green campaigners have expressed disappointment at the target: “This is important progress but not sufficient,” said Ed Matthew from the Climate Coalition.

“A more ambitious cut is both feasible and necessary to keep us safe and reflect our massive historic carbon emissions,” he added.

“We must remember too that the climate will not respond to targets, it will respond to carbon cuts. It is action that counts.”

Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, believes the UK’s reliance on biomass for electricity undermines the government’s plans.

“The UK is making a bold commitment to address our climate crisis, but these pledges rest on dodgy accounting. Every year, the UK throws billions of pounds of bill payers' money to prop up the burning of wood for electricity, and it erroneously counts this dirty power source as carbon-neutral energy towards its climate targets.

“But, it’s not. In fact, over the coming decades – when science tells us we need dramatic reductions in emissions – it will mean millions more tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Labour welcomed the strengthening of the UK target but warned it was the “minimum” the country should aim for and called for a plan to meet the goal, including a £30bn stimulus for a green recovery in the next 18 months.

The government has been ramping up its efforts to deliver on the target in the last month with a decarbonisation plan that it claims will deliver up to 250,000 jobs as well as bringing forward the date at which the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned to 2030.

Business and energy secretary and COP26 president Alok Sharma said: “The UK’s new emissions target is among the highest in the world and reflects the urgency and scale of the challenge our planet faces.

“I hope other countries join us and raise the bar at next week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit, and ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year.”

The new plan received a more positive outlook from Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, who said: “Of course we know we could go even further, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

“We now need the policies in place to achieve this target, if we’re going to lead and inspire the whole world to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at business group the CBI said: “At a time when the eyes of the world will be on the UK as host of the forthcoming COP26 Summit, the commitment to this extremely ambitious target is hugely welcome and puts Britain front and centre as a leader in tackling the climate crisis.

“While delivering a 68 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 undoubtedly represents a real stretch, there is no doubt that business is up for the challenge as we build back better and greener following the pandemic.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of energy firm SSE, said the 2030 goal was among the most ambitious in the world.

“This kind of bold and decisive policy-making will help unlock the investment needed to deliver on our net-zero ambitions, tackle climate change and help spur a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis.”

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