UK government commits to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced the UK government’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. This makes Britain the first country in the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions. It is the UK’s response to the UN Paris Agreement of 2015 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5C Special Report.

There is a “moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than we inherited,” the British Prime Minister said.

The UK Committee on Climate Change, including membership of the Tyndall Centre and UEA’s Corinne Le Quéré, recommended this new emissions target in their report published in May. Naomi Vaughan of the Tyndall Centre and UEA was also on expert advisor for the net zero report.

The Committee said that the net zero target is only possible with stable and well-designed policies. Current policies are found to be insufficient in reducing emissions. “The target can only be delivered with a strengthening of policy to deliver emissions reductions across all levels of departments of government. Delivery must progress with far greater urgency,” Chris Stark, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said in his presentation.

The Committee was established under the UK Climate Change Act 2008, also the first legislation of its type in the world. Several members of the Tyndall Centre have been members of the UK Climate Change Committee in the past. Prof Richard Dawson at Newcastle University is a current member of the Adaptation Committee. The UK government before net zero legislated for 80% reductions in emissions relative to 1990 levels, following the recommendation of the Climate Change Committee.

The Tyndall Centre has influenced the UKs mitigation aspirations of the UK since its founding. In 2005, it  published a major report, “Decarbonising the UK”, was the first to show cross-economy pathways for acorss infrastucture and society for achieving a 60% carbon dioxide reduction target by 2050. The report was also the first to highlight and quantify the emissions from aviation and shipping, which remains an unresolved topic in emissions accounting and pathways for decarbonisation, as well as behavoural change.

The Climate Change Committee’s net zero report states that net zero is achievable with known technologies and will require concerted effort and action by all sectors, including power, transport, land use and agriculture, aviation, shipping, and construction. The report lays out t what must be done by all sectors to achieve the net zero target:

The net zero target is additionally benefits the UK through new green industries with new job opportunities and export opportunities, cleaner air, smart cities, more biodiversity, cleaner water, and avoiding climate damages like flooding. The net zero target is in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to reduce emissions and keep global warming “well-below 2C.”

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