UK Prime Minister backs zero emissions bill

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, following her announcement that she is stepping down as leader of the ruling Conservative Party, said that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050. The statutory instrument to implement this was laid in Parliament on 12 June 2019, amending the Climate Change Act 2008.

The net zero emissions target is based on
advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change, which recently published its report reassessing the UK's long-term emissions targests. Entitled Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming, the report presented new eimsions scenarios drawingin 10 new research projects, three expert advisory groups, and reviews of the work of the IPCC and others. 

In its report, the Committee forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.

The new 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. The government plans to 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 its industries do not face unfair competition.

The UK government also announced that, for the first time, young people will have the chance to shape future climate policy through the Youth Steering Group. The Group, set up by the D
epartment for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and led by the British Youth Council, will advise government on priorities for environmental action and give a view on progress to date against existing commitments on climate, waste and recycling, and biodiversity loss. They will start their review in July.

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.

Whilst it will be for future governments to determine the precise direction of future climate policy, the Committee on Climate Change acknowledge that we have laid strong foundations through our Clean Growth Strategy and taken action to tackle climate change across key sectors of the economy identified by the report.’

Welcoming the announcement, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE, CBI Director-General, said: ‘UK business stands squarely behind the government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it. Climate leadership can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity. This legislation must be followed by a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy. Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.’

She continued: ‘We will retain the ability to use international carbon credits. Using international credits within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework is the right thing to do for the planet, allowing the UK to maximise the value of each pound spent on climate change mitigation. We will continue to work with our international partners to tackle climate change, including through our bid to host COP26.’

Meanwhile, Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) stated that the UK oil and gas industry was ‘an essential partner to UK climate ambitions’. Chief Executive Deirdre Michie said: ‘We can help design the diverse energy system we need for the future, and through our knowledge and experience can be a central part of developing some of the technology needed to mitigate carbon from other heavy emitting industries through, for example, carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS). We have already welcomed the Climate Change Committee report and are engaging with our members on the practical steps we need to take to in relation to continuing to manage and reduce the emissions from our own activities, to play our part in achieving net zero. With world-leading engineering skills, infrastructure and energy expertise, our industry stands ready to work with sectors across the UK economy to enable the UK to achieve its climate change goals.’

Matt Rooney, Engineering Policy Adviser at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, noted: ‘Achieving net zero will require a transformation of our energy system and the deployment of a broad range of new technologies in every sector of our economy…But this should also be seen as an opportunity. In being the first country to legally commit becoming a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy, we can become more innovative and reap the benefits of leading on the development of the novel technologies of tomorrow.’

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