Government to explore net zero emissions target upgrade

The government has signalled its ambitious intentions on future climate change policy by asking the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on whether the UK should set a date for a net zero emissions target. Currently, the UK is committed to reduce its annual carbon emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.


 Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry has written to the CCC asking for advice on:

·         setting a date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy, including from transport, industry and agriculture;

·         whether the government needs to review its 2050 target of cutting emissions by at least 80% relative to 1990 levels to meet Paris Agreement targets;

·         how emissions reductions might be achieved in industry, homes, transport and agriculture; and

·         the expected costs and benefits in comparison to current targets.


The letter also asks for advice on UK greenhouse gas emissions reductions appropriate to help meet global temperature rise targets of both 1.5°C and 2°C. The CCC has been asked to report by the end of March 2019.


The move makes the UK one of the first in the G7 to formally explore setting an even more ambitious target than its current one, says the Department for Business, Energy & industrial Strategy (BEIS). It also follows publication of the latest IPCC report on climate change, which shows that more rapid action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The CCC said earlier this year that the government’s 2017 Clean Growth Strategy did not go far enough to meet even existing carbon emissions reduction targets, and that action is needed to implement additional measures.


The government announced the move as part of its first ‘Green GB & NI Week’, during which Perry is also highlighting the economic opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner economy. There are already almost 400,000 jobs in the low carbon economy and this number could quadruple, said BEIS, generating up to £170bn of annual exports.


Minister Perry said: ‘We’re a world leader when it comes to tackling climate change and cutting carbon intensity, but… governments, businesses and communities must take further action to confront one of the greatest global challenges we’ve ever faced. That’s why we’re asking the independent climate experts of the CCC for advice on a roadmap to a net zero economy, including how emissions might be reduced and the expected costs and benefits of doing so.’


To mark the start of Green GB Week, the government unveiled a package of measures to help transform energy infrastructure, including: proposals for new laws for smart energy appliances such as washing machines and electric heaters; the opening of the £18mn Heat Recovery Support scheme to help businesses become more energy efficient; and a £320mn government fund for low carbon heating for cities.


The government also announced a £106mn programme to encourage greener construction practices in developing countries, added BEIS, just weeks after it announced £160mn to help countries transition to cleaner, greener energy.


But it has also come under criticism for pushing forward fracking in the UK, which is due to start again in Lancashire today, in the light of the stark messages of the IPCC report on moving away from fossil fuels.


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