The government is tabling legislation that looks set to result in the UK becoming the first major economy to eradicate emissions.
The government will implement the net zero emissions target by tabling a statutory instrument to amend the Climate Change Act 2008.
The existing target, set out in the 2008 legislation, stipulates that the UK must cut emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by the middle of the century.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised, in a report published last month, that net zero emissions could be achieved at a cost of 1-2 per cent of GDP.
It was asked to examine the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) recommendation that net zero, which means that any residual emissions must be counterbalanced by measures like carbon capture, must be achieved by 2050 to prevent runaway global warming.
The government has said it will conduct a review into how costs of decarbonisation will be distributed.
Estimates referenced in the CCC report suggest that the benefits of decarbonisation would partially or fully offset the costs.
The government’s progress on tackling climate change will also be reviewed by a new Youth Steering Group.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.
“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.”
Rachel Reeves, chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee tabled her own legislation earlier today (11 June) to implement the net zero target.
And the Welsh government also announced that it will adopt the net zero target, going beyond the CCC’s advice that it should reduce Wales’ emissions to 95 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
The government’s move happens against a backdrop of concern by the Treasury over the cost of implementing the net zero goal, which it estimated will work out at £1 trillion in a letter circulated around government last week.
The CCC has responded to news that the UK government will bring forward legislation to set a net zero target into law.
Lord Deben, CCC chair said: “We are delighted that the government has agreed to put a 2050 net zero target for all greenhouse gases to a parliamentary vote. I look forward to the same cross-party consensus that we saw in 2008, when the Climate Change Act became law.
“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.
“This is just the first step. The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole. The government has not yet moved formally to include international aviation and shipping within the target, but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero.
“We will assist by providing further analysis of how emissions reductions can be delivered in these sectors through domestic and international frameworks.
“The Committee on Climate Change will now move to the task of providing advice on the detailed path to net zero. Our statutory advice to government on the UK’s carbon budgets to 2037 is due next year.”