Rachel Reeves will increase the pressure on the government to move rapidly to adopt the 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal by presenting a bill to enshrine the target in legislation.
The chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee will present a bill to parliament which would implement the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that the UK can set the ambitious new target for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Reeves’ move comes amidst speculation that the government will push forward with its own legislation to set the net-zero target before Theresa May steps down from the role of prime minister when the Conservative party selects a new leader.
The Financial Times reported last week that the Treasury has put a £1 trillion price tag on achieving the net-zero target.
The bill presented by the BEIS committee chair would amend the Climate Change Act 2008 to require net United Kingdom carbon emissions to be “net-zero” by 2050.
International aviation and shipping would also be included when calculating the level of emissions.
Reeves has also published a draft statutory instrument (SI) which would allow the government to achieve the same outcome of setting the net-zero target in law but do so more speedily, disposing of the need to go through the lengthier parliamentary process needed for a bill.
Net-zero means that any remaining emissions must be counterbalanced by measures to mop up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere like increased tree planting or carbon capture and storage plants.
Reeves said the UK has a “moral imperative” to set the net-zero goal, a “compelling case” for which was made in the CCC’s recent report.
She said: “In the UK we have a golden opportunity to deliver environmental benefits, new jobs, and sustainable green industries, but this won’t happen without a co-ordinated, cross-departmental effort from government and a cast-iron commitment to achieving a net-zero target.
“In presenting this bill, I want to bring home to the government the urgent need to commit to the net-zero 2050 target and give the UK the best possible chance of meeting this challenge. But the reality is that a new act is not even necessary.
“If the government wished, it could bring forward secondary legislation amending the 2008 Climate Change Act to enshrine the net-zero target in law. Strong, early action on cutting carbon emissions considerably outweigh the costs.”
Backing the proposed legislation, Mary Creagh MP, chair of the environmental audit committee, said: “The government must now legislate to put net-zero into law and I’m proud to support Rachel’s bill. The longer we delay the harder and more expensive it will be.”
The bill is expected to be put to parliament on Tuesday 11 June.