Government announces 78% climate emissions cut by 2035 - "historic milestone on path to net zero UK"

Fri 23 April 2021 View all news

The UK Government will enshrine in law a target which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. The target, for the first time, will include the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. The Committee on Climate Change described the announcement as "an historic milestone on the path to Net Zero UK".

The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget (2033-37) will set in law what the Government says is the world’s most ambitious climate change target. It is in line with the recommendation from the independent Committee on Climate Change. 

The Government says that setting this Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal which seeks to limit global heating to well below 2°C while pursuing efforts towards 1.5°C.

The announcement came before the Prime Minister addressed the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden on Earth Day (22 April) where Boris Johnson urged countries to raise ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in setting stretching emissions reduction targets.

The Government is already committed to cutting emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution.

The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021, with legislation to achieve this already under way.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.

"The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.

"We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action."

Responding to the news, the CCC’s Chief Executive, Chris Stark said: “I am delighted at this news; this is an important and historic decision. In committing to cut emissions by almost 80% in 2035, the UK has taken its place at the forefront of global efforts to reach Net Zero – crucial in the fight against climate change. By implementing our recommendations in full, the Government’s decision rests on the most comprehensive ever assessment of the path to a fully decarbonised economy.

“Now we have set this goal in law, Government, business and people up and down the country can throw their full weight behind the actions needed to get us there. It means that every choice we make from now must be the right one for our climate.”

The Government says that the UK is on track to outperform the third Carbon Budget which ends in 2022 with emissions down 44% overall between 1990 and 2019, and two-thirds in the power sector.

The announcement was widely welcomed by the NGO community, though several commentators pointed to the fact that there is a significant gap between the objectives and the policies and initiatives so far outlined to meet them.

The Prime Minister’s '10 Point Plan'  and the Government’s 2020 Energy White Paper provide some policy detail and background.

The Government is expected to announce a Transport Decarbonisation Plan shortly which will put forward more detailed policies for meeting the Net Zero target in the context of transport.

The Government says that its analysis finds that costs of action on climate change are outweighed by the significant benefits – reducing polluting emissions, as well as bringing fuel savings, improvements to air quality and enhancing biodiversity. The Government also expects the costs of meeting net zero to continue to fall as green technology advances, industries decarbonise and private sector investment grows.

HM Treasury is expected to publish its Net Zero Review in the coming months setting out how Government plans to maximise economic growth opportunities from the net zero transition.

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