11 June 2019, source edie newsroom
BREAKING NEWS: In one of her last acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May has confirmed that Parliament will implement the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, creating a legally binding net-zero carbon target for 2050.
The Climate Change Act will now be amended to account for net-zero emissions by 2050
Announced on Tuesday night (11 June), the Prime Minister revealed that the statutory instrument to amend the Climate Change Act of 2008 to account for a net-zero target by 2050 will be laid in Parliament on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May 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.”
The move comes just over a month after the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its recommendations to Government on legislating for a net-zero carbon economy. The body’s advice includes bringing the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales forward to 2035; quadrupling the UK’s renewable energy generation capacity; improving biodiversity across 20,000 hectares of land annually and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale.
Crucially, the CCC believes that reaching net-zero by 2050 can be done using between 1-2% of GDP in 2050. This is the same level of funding currently allocated to work related to compliance with the Climate Change Act.
Devil in the detail
How the UK actually plans to reach net-zero emissions will need to be set out. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond claimed that spending cuts for schools, hospitals and the police force would be needed to fund total decarbonisation of the UK economy, which he estimated at £1trn.
The Financial Times reported last week (4 June) that the cabinet has accepted a request by Hammond that 88 megatonnes (million tonnes) of emissions from the 2013 to 2017 carbon budget should be carried forward to give the UK more leeway in meeting future targets. The decision flies in the face of advice issued by the CCC when it urged ministers not to take advantage of the existing rule.
Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is currently targeting an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 against a 1990 baseline, following similar advice from the CCC in the past. However, the current Act only accounts for international aviation and shipping on a territorial basis. Under the proposed new strategy, the net-zero target would encompass all sectors, including shipping and aviation.
One deviation from the recommendations is the use of international carbon credits. The UK Government has confirmed that they will retain the ability to use these credits to offset emissions within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework.
The UK Government also looks set to stick with its original phase-out date for new diesel and petrol vehicles. However, MPs have confirmed a bid host COP26.
The Government’s target will also tap into the growing influence of youth climate strikes. A Youth Steering Group will be led by DCMS and the British Youth Council to advise the Government on priorities for climate change, waste and recycling and biodiversity loss. They will start their review in July.
The legislation means the UK will become the first G7 nation to enshrine a net-zero target, and will conduct assessments within the next five years to push for other countries to set similar targets. A key ambition of this assessment is to ensure that UK industries to not face unfair competition from foreign businesses neglecting climate impacts.
It also follows months of calls from MPs and businesses alike to enshrine a net-zero target into UK law – a discussion that has been amplified by the recent climate school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests.
The announcement from the Government comes just hours after the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee’s chair Rachel Reeves MP introduced a new bill for legislating on net-zero to the House on Tuesday afternoon (11 June).
The bill, which followed the CCC’s recommendations and included all international aviation and shipping, was broadly welcomed across the house – particularly by groups such as the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).