Britain sets deadline for carbon neutrality by 2050

Eloise Marshall
June 14, 2019

While experts agree it won't be possible to eliminate all emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, "net zero" would ensure that an equal amount of gas would be captured by natural means such as forests or artificial systems that suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid, said: "Government has shown today the right leadership in legislating for a 2050 net-zero target".

"UK business stands squarely behind the Government's commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050".

The UK Government has also said it will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK's lead and ensuring that industries do not face unfair competition.

It also said it would retain its ability to use global carbon credits to help to meet the target. 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".

"As the first major economy to legislate for net-zero, we should all now get behind the UK's bid to host the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCC) COP26 conference next year". Industry and government must now work together to make the huge progress needed in the decarbonisation of heat and transport, building on the good work which has begun.

"Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children", she said. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a clear, greener form of growth.

He said: "Net-zero can be achieved but only if the ambition is supported by the right policies".

However, if this turns out not to be the case, the United Kingdom will legally be allowed to revoke its net-zero legislation and revert to the Climate Change Act's original target.

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The statutory instrument that will amend the Climate Change Act of 2008 will be laid in Parliament on 12 June.

Matt Setchell, co-head of Octopus Energy Investments commented: "The government's decision to target net-zero carbon emissions is another important step forward".

Smaller European countries, including the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden already have the "net zero" target enshrined in domestic laws, some of which are more ambitious than the United Kingdom proposal.

The government has not yet moved formally to include global aviation and shipping within the target, but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero. A leaked Treasury letter has warned a zero-carbon economy would cost at least £1trillion.

Port Moody has joined a growing list of cities and countries around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the government's National Infrastructure Strategy, which is due to be published during the autumn, must be "unambiguously bold" in setting a "clear and achievable path to ensure the United Kingdom becomes a low-carbon nation".

The move was welcomed by environmental campaigners, but they cautioned the government had left some room for maneuver in its plans, especially by allowing a mechanism for projects overseas to count toward Britain's target.

At the Solar Trade Association, chief executive Chris Hewitt, also took the view that "long-term targets are meaningless without action".

Mr Robottom added that progress has been made in transport and electricity but this needs to continue at a great pace and significant challenges remain in decarbonising heat and industry.

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