The UK must set and vigorously pursue a stiff new climate change target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 'net-zero' levels by 2050 – replacing the current target of an 80% reduction against 1990 levels – according to a major new report from the Committee on Climate Change.
The report was published on 2 May. It follows from a UK government instruction to the CCC to provide advice on the feasibility of a net-zero carbon target – a move the Committee believes could be achieved within the same cost envelope as the current, less ambitious, Climate Change Act.
It follows months of calls from MPs and businesses alike to enshrine a net-zero target into UK law – a discussion for which the background has included a number of climate change demands and protest demonstrations.
On May 1 opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion for the UK parliament to become the first in the world to declare a climate emergency – recognition that legislative action to date has been insufficient. The motion was passed.
Launching the CCC report, Committee chair Lord Deben said: “We can all see that the climate is changing, and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that parliament has already accepted. The government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them, without delay.”
The CCC recommends that a 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should be legislated as soon as possible. Such a target would constitute the UK’s “highest possible ambition” to combating climate change and would send a much stronger signal internationally. CCC says that this net-zero target could be achieved at the same cost that is currently estimated for achieving the targets enshrined in the Climate Change Act, which is between 1-2% of GDP in 2050.
However, the report does also note that some home nations are currently better equipped to deliver more rapid decarbonisation than others. Scotland, for example, is encouraged by the CCC to target net-zero emissions by 2045 – owing to a greater potential to de-pollute its economy compared to the rest of the UK – whereas Wales should target a 95% reduction in emissions by 2050 (from the same 1990 baseline).
Other key recommendations: carbon capture and storage is “a necessity” not an option; electric vehicle targets should be brought forward to 2015; clean energy capacity should be quadrupled by 2050; and there should be a target for the “rewilding” of 20 000 hectares of land annually.