The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says that the UK government must immediately set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Setting out its advice to the government on the UK's long-term climate target, the CCC has recommended that the UK take urgent action and increase the current goal under the Climate Change Act to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.
In light of the Paris Agreement, and the IPCC’s recent special report on global warming of 1.5°C, the CCC has provided new advice to the government and the devolved administrations on the UK’s long-term climate change targets. Its report, Net Zero: the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming recommends a target of achieving net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 – a target that is widely seen as essential and feasible and the CCC’s move has been welcomed by industry.
Matthew Farrow, executive director of the Environmental Industries Commission, said: “The CCC’s call for a net zero carbon target for 2050 is both necessary and achievable. But to deliver the target in ways which maintain public support, we will need more innovation to keep the economic costs of the net zero transition manageable and the necessary public behaviour changes acceptable. The UK has a strong environmental sector which is ready and willing to rise this challenge.”
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said: “Today’s report highlights the importance of urgent, concerted action to protect the UK’s economy and environment from the impacts of climate change. Future generations won’t forgive us if we don’t act together and with a sharp focus.
“But to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we must put in place the infrastructure we need to change how we travel and how we power and heat our homes and businesses. The key step is to ensure a rich mix of renewable energy sources. That’s why in the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment we called for at least 50% of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, along with measures to speed up the delivery of lower carbon heating for our homes and the adoption of electric vehicles.
"The CCC's call for a net zero carbon target for 2050 is both necessary and achievable, but to deliver the target in ways which maintain public support we will need more innovation to keep costs of transition manageable and the necessary behaviour changes acceptable."
Matthew Farrow, executive director, Environmental Industries Commission
“It is essential that the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, expected this autumn, sets out a robust and effective plan for funding and delivering these changes.”
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) also welcomed the CCC’s report. Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC said: “Today's report marks a watershed moment in our efforts to tackle climate change. The UK must take responsibility as a global leader to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the building sector has a crucial role to play in this transition. According to WorldGBC, achieving this will require all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 and all existing ones by 2050 – which will require outstanding levels of energy efficiency alongside zero carbon electricity and heat supplies.”
Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, said planning to cut emissions rapidly could begin as soon as the zero emissions target was set. “I would like to see it happen as soon as possible, preferably before the big UN summit in September,” he said.
The CCC’s move comes after Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Welsh assembly declared a climate emergency and follows a week of protests by the Extinction Rebellion group.