Climate Action

Theresa May declares UK to be net zero by 2050

Today marks a momentous decision from Theresa May to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

  • 12 June 2019
  • Poppy Bootman

Today marks a momentous decision from Theresa May to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister has announced the UK will eliminate its net contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The decision will amend the Climate Change Act 2008, which had committed to an 80% decrease of greenhouse gases from a 1990 baseline, by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report in May 2019, assuring the UK Government that reaching net zero by 2050 is “necessary, feasible and cost-effective”.

In response to the net zero decision, CCC Chairman, Lord Deben has said: “Our report concluded that Net Zero is necessary, feasible and cost effective. This is a major commitment for the coming decades, but we have highlighted the significant benefits of action. This step will send a strong signal to other countries to follow suit – and will help to drive the global effort to tackle climate change required by the Paris Agreement.”

The net-zero legislation will mean the UK is the first G7 country to legally implement net zero policy. Specified in the press release is the government’s hope that the international community will adopt similar policies, assuring to conduct a further assessment within 5 years to confirm other countries are taking equally ambitious actions.

Scotland have already legislated to reach net zero by 2045, whilst Wales has committed a 95% reduction of 1990 levels after the insights of the CCC’s net zero report.

The decision prioritises the ability of young people to shape climate policy through the Youth Steering Group, led by the British Youth Council. The group will advise Government policy for environmental action and review progress on emissions, climate, waste, recycling and biodiversity loss, beginning their review in July 2019.

Alongside the decision, 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 target acknowledged low-carbon and clean energy innovations’ current contribution to the UK economy annually; £44.5 billion, underlining significant economic advantages of implementing the net zero policy.

Chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, Doug Parr said the target was a “big moment for everyone in the climate movement”, however “loopholes” remain retaining international carbon credits to permit greater domestic emissions if the Government can pay for cuts elsewhere.

Nonetheless, the target is significant to avoid a temperature increase in excess of 1.5C; the increase the IPCC warned in 2018, before the world reaches dangerous levels. Exceeding the increase, IPCC projections estimate hot extremes in the majority of inhabited regions, with the high possibility of severe droughts or heavy precipitation in varying locations.

The CCC have said the target is of substantial progression and imperative to stay below the 1.5C temperature increase.

Read the full press release here.

Photograph: Defence Images

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