Claire Perry has announced the government is paving the way for a review of its statutory climate change targets to meet the Paris agreement’s zero emissions goal.
In a speech at the Commonwealth Summit (CHOGM), the energy and climate minister said she will ask the Committee on Climate Change to formally advise the government on how the UK’s greenhouse gas cuts targets should be strengthened in the light of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release a scientific report in October on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
Perry said: “After the IPCC report later this year, we will be seeking advice from the UK’s independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets.”
Under the existing targets, outlined in the 2008 Climate change Act, the UK’s target is to cut emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
According to a report by the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, published earlier this month, the government should go further and set a supplementary zero emissions target to cover the period after 2050 when the act ceases to have force.
The institute says this stiffer target is required to enable the UK to comply with the Paris agreement target to achieve “net zero emissions” in the second half of this century in order to prevent worldwide temperatures rising 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
Responding to Perry’s announcement, former Conservative environment secretary of state Lord Howard, said: “The Climate Change Act has proven its worth, but as science and diplomacy move on, it should of course be kept under review – and the tougher international targets agreed at the Paris summit make it likely that the UK’s own target will need to be strengthened.
“The announcement will be well received by our friends in the Commonwealth; many are deeply concerned about climate change, and this will be seen as evidence that Britain remains as committed as ever to working with them in pursuit of our common aims.”
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said:“Climate science is now crystal clear that in order to deliver on the Paris agreement, governments need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions – and for developed nations, that has to happen by mid-century at the latest.
“The big prize for the UK is to become the first G7 country to commit to net zero, and to do so in law. That, plus taking the steps necessary to achieve net zero emissions, really would enable the UK to grasp the flag of ‘climate leader’.”
Renewable UK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said upfront investment was the best route to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
She said: “It is in the UK’s best interests for ministers to be ambitious on climate change action. The science shows we need to stay within two degrees for the good of all nations, including the UK and Commonwealth countries.
“Meanwhile, rapid technology developments suggest that successful future economies will be those powered by low carbon energy.”