The government has today announced legally binding plans to cut UK carbon emissions to zero by the year 2050. The new target will amend the 2008 Climate Change Act, which commits the UK to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, to the much more more ambitious goal of zero net emissions.
The new legislation sets the UK on the path to become the first major economy to set net zero emissions target in law, and is based on expert independent advice from the Committee on Climate Change. In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecasts significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.
Other major economies are expected to follow suit, though the UK will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.
Prime minister Theresa 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. 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.”
The construction sector and business community have welcomed the government's move. Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, 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.”
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “This is not only the right thing to tackle the climate emergency for future generations but a huge opportunity to increase our energy efficiency, improve our resilience and deliver a greener, healthier society. We know that investing in zero carbon solutions is good for growth - boosting jobs and the economy - and it is cheaper for business, organisations and government to tackle climate change now than to manage its impacts in the future.”
Matthew Farrow, director of the Environmental Industries Commission, said: “This is the right decision. The CCC report showed both why a UK net zero commitment was needed as part of global action on climate and also that this goal is achievable if we get policies right. The UK has a strong environmental technology sector which will benefit from the long term framework the new target gives and this in turn which make the innovations we need more attractive to investors. It’s now vital that all the Conservative leadership candidates pledge to commit to keeping and acting on the new target.”
National Infrastructure chair Sir John Armitt said: “Protecting the UK’s economy and environment from the impacts of climate change is a probably one of the biggest challenges we face in the decades ahead. We cannot do this without first putting in place the infrastructure we need to change how we travel and power and heat our homes and businesses. The National Infrastructure Assessment is a fully costed plan that would ensure that at least 50% of our electricity is from renewable sources by 2030 and supports action now on determining how we heat our homes and support consumers switching to cleaner electric vehicles. This autumn’s National Infrastructure Strategy must be unambiguously bold in using the assessment to set a clear and achievable path to ensure the UK becomes a low-carbon nation.”
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council said: “This is a powerful and positive move by the prime minister that will give her time in office a legacy beyond Brexit. Setting this important and necessary target now sends a strong signal to business that Britain is ready to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis. We must accelerate action in all areas including improving the efficiency of our ageing building stock, and overcoming the challenge of decarbonising heat. To do this, we need to see both policy and industry leadership to ensure the built environment is at the vanguard of emissions reductions. There is no time to lose, now is the time to act.”