The UK will draft new laws that will cut emissions to net-zero, climate minister Claire Perry announced on Tuesday. Under the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, the country has committed to 80% emission cuts, but this may prove inadequate to meet the Paris limit in 2050, writes Megan Darby, deputy editor of Climate Home News. Article courtesy Climate Home News.
In a submission to the UN’s climate change agency, Perry said: “The UK will need to legislate for a net-zero emissions target at an appropriate point in the future to provide legal certainty on where the UK is heading.”
The notice was given in a cover letter for the UK’s 2050 climate goals to the UN. She added: “We hope the UK can be an inspirational example of what is possible” and committed to working with other parties to help them submit their own long term goals.
The country is on track to meet its near-term milestones, but the Committee on Climate Change has warned of “significant gaps” in government policy for maintaining momentum through the 2020s and 2030s
The UK’s own long term plan was its Clean Growth Strategy, a long-awaited suite of environmental measures released in October 2017. The cover letter pointedly referred to the strategy as the UK’s “current” policy.
Perry did not commit to lowering the UK’s own 2050 target below the 80% cut by 2050 mandated by the country’s climate act.
Meeting the Paris limit
But earlier on Tuesday, at a side event of a British Commonwealth leaders summit in London, Perry said the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) would be instructed to advise on how the UK’s long-term climate goals could meet the aspirational 1.5C limit agreed in Paris.
The CCC would be asked take into account the latest science on the 1.5C goal, which is the subject of a special report due to be finalised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in September.
“After the IPCC report later this year, we will be seeking the advice of the UK’s independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets,” said Perry.
Under the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, it is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, based on efforts to hold global temperature rise below 2C. The CCC is responsible for setting a series of interim targets or “carbon budgets” to get there, and periodically assessing progress.
Although the UK Climate Change Act was ground-breaking in its day, its existing 80% target now looks somewhat inadequate; other nations have already set net-zero targets in line with the Paris Accord
The country is on track to meet its near-term milestones, but the CCC has warned of “significant gaps” in government policy for maintaining momentum through the 2020s and 30s.
Professor Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said meeting the Paris Agreement 1.5C temperature goal would require faster emissions cuts – to net zero by 2050.
“So although the UK Climate Change Act was ground-breaking in its day, its existing 80% target now looks somewhat inadequate; other nations have already set net-zero targets in line with the Paris Accord, and the UK should logically adopt one too,” said Haigh.
The UK government made a similar commitment to enshrine net-zero emissions into law under the prime ministership of David Cameron in 2016. Perry’s statements on Tuesday indicated the policy remained in place and began steps towards its implementation.
Climate advocates welcomed the announcement, including Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris Agreement and head of the European Climate Foundation, and David Paul, environment minister of the Marshall Islands.
Last week the European Commission told EU ministers it would update its 2050 climate roadmap this year. 26 countries have signed up to produce similar strategies, including Brazil, Japan and Canada.
UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa last week showed her support for an initiative to inform the development of long-term strategies. “As we take action before 2020, we have to keep an eye on the future,” she wrote.
To support others in developing long-term strategies, Perry promised £3.5 million ($5.0m) to extend the “2050 Calculator” tool and £1.2m ($1.7m) to help Pacific nations cut emissions.
Science minister Sam Gyimah announced a £3.5m programme using British satellites to help Kenya plan and respond to disasters like drought, floods and famine.
Meanwhile UK opposition lawmakers endorsed calls for a “climate damages tax” on fossil fuel producers to fund support for climate change victims.
Vanuatu was due to host the Commonwealth meeting but had to withdraw after Cyclone Pam hit in March 2015.
Megan Darby is Climate Home’s deputy editor. She previously wrote about UK energy and water industries for leading sector publication Utility Week. She holds a Mathematics degree from Newcastle University.
This article first appeared on Climate Home News and is republished here under this website’s Creative Commons licence.
Mike Parr says
Last year I read through the Tory gov’s “Industry Strategy” – I had to stop at page 210 because I was losing the will to live. My demolition of this pile of tripe was published on a number of sites – apparently to rave reviews.
Scanning through the latest “Strategy” it seems to follow the same scatter gun approach as the IS – a little bit here and a little bit there – all amounting to – a little bit. Housing is one good example: single stage in-depth energy renovation is the cheapest approach (data from the French BBC – Bâtiment Basse Consommation proves this – notice the word “prove” – we are not dealing with “beliefs” but numbers). The Tories seem to support multi-stage do a bit here or there. Overall their ambition is pathetic & “kicking the can down the road”: extract from the CGS nonsense follows:
“This pathway COULD see a further 6 to 9 million properties insulated, especially focusing on those in fuel poverty where we are aiming to have the 2.5 million fuel poor homes in England improved to energy efficiency rating C or better by 2030
Notice the “could” and “2030” – the Tories have zero intention of doing anything that their “strategy” claims. It is a piece of PR, theatre, fiction, “look we are green” etc.
I have no intention of reading the “Clean Growth Strategy” end to end. I wasted quite enough of my life reading the nonsense that was the Industrial Strategy. However, I will finish by noting that any strategy worth the paper it is written on is short ideally no more than 20 pages. Detail falls into tactics = how you intend to implement the strategy. Both the IS and the CGS (167 pages) are NOT strategies – they are feel-good shopping lists generated by UK bureaucrats to allow Tory ministers to claim “look we are doing something”.
As for the Tories legislating…….there is a monster backlog of Brexit legislation which will take years to shift …….legislate for climate change? the Tories? don’t make me laugh.
Simon Cohen says
Mike Parr, above, makes some excellent points. There is a total lack of joined up thinking, or any real thinking at all from the Tories.
Lets be clear, all this shilly-shallying around has one objective in sight:
To limit Government’s fiscal capacity while waiting for ‘market solutions’ to deal with the issue. Phillip Mirowski has written extensively on this issue. We’re still dealing with market fundamentalism delaying logical and well documented solutions that to which Mike Parr (above) alluded.
It is clear-and Naomi Klein has written about it in her Book ‘This Changes Everything’ that full employment is easily possible given the right fiscal stimulus.
Why will this not happen? Easy, the EU is caught up with austerity ideology which, as in the case of Greece, arguably kills people which means everything that has social purpose is done with gritted teeth. The irrational fear of Government (which is NOT the same as household debt if you have a sovereign currency) will actually cause the real inter-generational debt of worsening environmental conditions, private debt mountains and poor health outcomes, not to mention the skills and training deficit which robs people and society ( Thatcher thought it didn’t exist!!) of real wealth.
Economic ideology of the last 40 years has created a HUGE opportunity cost and delayed tackling these issues by the equivalent time period.
A wake up call is needed-or rather , we need to wake up before we get the wake-up call.