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Government announces 2050 net zero emissions target

Fran Evans
By Fran Evans
25th June 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May announced on 12th June 2019 that the UK will introduce legislation to “eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.”

The UK’s current long-term emissions target is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 80 per cent by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. Number 10 said the move is based on advice from independent advisory body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). In a report last month, the CCC said the target was possible, but would require “evolution” of the planning system.

Launching the new target, May said: “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.”

Reacting to the announcement, Ben Smith, energy and climate change director at engineering and planning consultancy Arup, said: “The high-level message throughout the CCC report is generally consistent – we understand the risks, we know what needs to be done but we need to get on and do it. If you look at the sectors the report covers, they include energy, transport, buildings and land-use, so of course planners will have an important role in delivering the net zero target.  They will be important to set the vision at local and development scale, to design policy and also in capacity building and tools development.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) said that the built environment contains some of the biggest opportunities to slash emissions. She said: “We must accelerate action in all areas including improving the efficiency of our ageing building stock, and overcoming the challenge of decarbonising heat. To do this, we need to see both policy and industry leadership to ensure the built environment is at the vanguard of emissions reductions. There is no time to lose, now is the time to act.”

Also reacting, CCC chairman Lord Deben said: “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.”

Campaign group Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennett welcomed the announcement but said it did not go far enough to address climate change. He said: “2050 is still too slow to address catastrophic climate change, the UK can and must go faster. The next prime minister must legislate to end our contribution to climate breakdown earlier, put carbon-cutting at the centre of policy-making and pull the plug on plans for more roads, runways and fracking.

“Our very own deputy chief executive of the National Office of  the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Tom Fyans, said: “The government’s commitment to net zero is a bold and necessary step forward in tackling the climate emergency. The longer we leave it to take action on climate breakdown, the more difficult and expensive that task will then become. We therefore urge the government to be even more ambitious with its target, aiming for net-zero by 2045. Now that this target has been set, the government must back it up by introducing policies that ensure that it delivers on its commitments. We need to see policies and funding that guarantees better land use, increases tree and hedgerow planting and reverses the degradation of our soils so that we can drive carbon back into the ground. Many solutions to this crisis lie in restoring our natural world. While the countryside may be on the front line against climate change, it can also provide the solutions that we so desperately need.”