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UK to adopt zero emissions goal

The Government has confirmed that the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal agreed in last year’s international climate change negotiations in Paris will be written into UK law.

The Government has confirmed that the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal agreed in last year’s international climate change negotiations in Paris will be written into UK law.

One of the key measures of the landmark climate change agreement brokered between nearly 200 countries in December 2015 was a goal to reach a ‘carbon neutral’ global economy at some point during the 21st century.

Speaking to the House of Commons on 14 March, energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, said: “The Government believes that we will need to take the step of enshrining the Paris goal for net zero emissions in UK law. The question is not whether but how we do it.”

Climate Change Act

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK is legally bound to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent against 1990 levels by 2050 through a series of binding five year ‘carbon budgets’. 

The Government’s announcement commits the UK to a new legal framework beyond 2050 to ensure that it reaches net-zero emissions at some point in the latter half of the century. 

This provides further certainty that long-term measures will be taken to cut emissions in all sectors of the economy, including more energy-intensive industries such as agriculture and transport. 

UK leadership

The announcement comes after former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, tabled an amendment to the forthcoming Energy Bill which is currently being debated in Parliament. 

Miliband said: “It is the right thing to do because the science demands it, it makes economic sense and will build momentum in the fight against climate change.

“It is essential we build on the success of the Paris agreement and do not squander it and I hope other countries will now follow the example of the UK”.

‘Positive momentum’

Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group, described the move as a “positive commitment that will help contribute to the positive momentum coming out of the Paris climate change deal”.

“[It will] remind policy makers in the future that the 80 per cent emission cuts that the UK needs to deliver by 2050 are not an end-goal, but an important step towards greater cuts beyond then.

“However, for such a long-term goal to mean something, the Government also has to crack on with the immediate job of developing a strategy [in the near-term].”

A plan for enshrining the goal into law will be announced later this year after feedback from the Committee on Climate Change, which advises on UK climate change policy.