The prime minister has announced that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.
The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in Parliament today, Wednesday 12 June, amending the Climate Change Act 2008.
Theresa May will also meet young science and engineering students today to discuss the new target, which is based on advice from independent experts the Committee on Climate Change. The government commissioned this advice in October.
In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.
This legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions, with other major economies expected to follow suit.
To encourage other major economies to adopt similar policies, the UK will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, to ensure ‘our industries do not face unfair competition’.
‘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.’
A net zero target with a backstop?
The government will retain the ability to use international carbon credits ‘within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework’. According to the government, this is ‘the right thing to do for the planet, allowing the UK to maximise the value of each pound spent on climate change mitigation.’
Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK said this is a ‘big moment’ for everyone in the climate movement and particularly to the youth climate strikers, who rightly should advise on future climate and environmental policy.’
‘Judging by the headline, this is a legacy Theresa May can be proud of’, he said. ‘Judging by the small print, this is a net zero target with a backstop.’
He said it was right for the UK, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, to be the world’s first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change – but that the commitment was undermined by ‘trying to shift the burden to developing nations through International Carbon Credits’.
This type of offsetting ‘has a history of failure and is not, according the government’s climate advisors, cost efficient’, he said.