UK Climate Change Committee calls for zero emissions by 2050

May 7, 2019

Posted by: Frances Lawson


The UK will become the world leader in carbon emissions reductions to 2050 if advice provided to the Government by its Climate Change Committee (“CCC”) is accepted.

The lengthy report running to nearly 300 pages advocates the UK passing new legislation to commit itself to a target unprecedented in its ambition across major world economies; zero net emissions across all sectors. Interestingly, the target reflects not only the urgency of sizeable emissions cuts in order to stay within 2 degrees of warming, but also the UK’s historic responsibility for the existing level of warming.

While some other countries have made similarly ambitious pledges, if the CCC’s recommendation is followed, the UK will become the first to put such a target into law. What also makes the plans remarkable is that they would cover the whole of the economy, including sectors such as international aviation and shipping that are typically omitted from emissions targets, and which are not covered by Parties’ commitments under the Paris Agreement or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”). The proposed UK target also does not include the buying of carbon credits from other nations. In this way, it is more ambitious than that of Sweden and Norway, whose pledges to achieve zero net emissions by 2045 and 2030 respectively do not include any of the above.

The responsible Government Department – the Business and Energy Ministry – has said it “will respond in due course” to the report. However, the indications are that the recommendation will be endorsed, Greg Clark having already gone on the record that the report “[…] now sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.”

Nevertheless, the UK’s prospective new target falls considerably short of the demands of the Extinction Rebellion campaign who are calling for zero net emissions by 2025. The CCC’s position at present is that such a date “does not currently appear credible”, although it accepts that the position could change if more rapid technological and societal change occurs.

The full report can be downloaded here


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