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Government vows to meet its 2050 climate change target

Words: Laura Edgar
Climate change

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged the UK to eradicating its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

Legislation to implement this and amend the Climate Change Act 2008 will be laid before Parliament today (12 June). The act sets out the government’s current target, which is to reduce emissions by 80 per cent.

The government said the legislation would mean the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net-zero emissions, but also emphasises the importance of other countries making the commitment.

The UK would, the government continued, conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking “similarly ambitious” action.

A Youth Steering Group, set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, will be led by the British Youth Council. It will advise the government on priorities for environmental action and give a view on progress to date against existing commitments on climate, waste and recycling, and biodiversity loss. The group will start its review in July.

In May, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said the foundations are in place throughout the UK to deliver a net-zero economy – but that the UK can be more ambitious by targeting a reduction of its greenhouse gases to zero by 2050. The target should cover all sectors of the economy, including international aviation and shipping.

The outgoing PM said: “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.”

Energy secretary Greg Clark added: “The report we commissioned from the Committee on Climate Change makes clear that we have laid the foundations to achieve a net-zero emissions economy, and that it is necessary and feasible.

“Almost 400,000 people are already employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains across the country. Through our modern industrial strategy we’re investing in clean growth to ensure we reap the rewards and create two million high-quality jobs by 2030.”

Griffiths accepts CCC recommendation

The Welsh Government has a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, which is set out in the Environment (Wales) Act. The advice from the CCC makes it clear the increase from 80 per cent to 95 per cent is a substantial change and requires a serious shift in policy response to match it, environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths noted in a written ministerial statement published yesterday (11 June).

Having recently declared a climate emergency, she formally accepted the recommendation of the CCC to indicate that the Welsh Government is committed to delivering the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required to make its contribution to a net-zero target for the UK. Griffiths will bring regulations to the National Assembly for Wales next year to amend the existing 2050 target.

The minister also thinks Wales must go further than the target, and declared that she would bring forward a target for Wales to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

“In order to identify opportunities for even more rapid decarbonisation in Wales I will work closely with the CCC and other stakeholders, as described in Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales.”


Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: “In the dying days of a premiership characterised by chronic inaction on climate breakdown, this sends a powerful message to industry and investors that the age of fossil fuels is over.”

For Bennett, though, it is disappointing that the government has “ignored its climate advisers’ recommendation to exclude carbon offsets – as well as caving into Treasury pressure to review the target in five years’ time”.

“2050 is still too slow to address catastrophic climate change; the UK can and must go faster. The next prime minister must legislate to end our contribution to climate breakdown earlier, put carbon-cutting at the centre of policymaking and pull the plug on plans for more roads, runways and fracking.

“It’s now time to build the carbon-free future that science requires and the public are so loudly demanding.”

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “Climate change is an existential challenge with a ticking clock – and the science shows we need to make big changes to our economy. It’s right to speed up our action to reflect the truth of the risks. Luckily, the public have made it clear that they’re more than up for the challenge. Polling and protests alike support the low-carbon economy and more action on using renewables.

“We need to make the best use of every technology in our toolbox, from onshore wind to wave and tidal power to energy efficiency to help fix dangerous climate change. We might be afraid of the impacts of climate change, but the UK’s world-class renewables industry, including our global lead in offshore wind, shows that we should not be afraid of investing in a green economy: the returns to the UK of this leadership on net zero will be huge”.

Read more:

Report: UK can be more ambitious on climate change

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