The UK Government is to set the world’s most ambitious climate-change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, a decision industry body RenewableUK says will require even higher targets for renewables
In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said, “In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, the sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a five-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050.
“The Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.
“For the first time, the Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions – an important part of the government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.”
The move comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden, on Earth Day, on 22 April. The Prime Minister will urge countries to raise their ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in setting stretching targets for reducing emissions by 2030 to align with net zero.
The government is already working towards its commitment to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution – the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date. The announcement builds on this goal to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035.
The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021, with legislation setting out the UK Government’s commitments laid in Parliament on 21 April.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change. That is 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. We will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and today’s announcement means our low-carbon future is now in sight. The targets we’ve set ourselves in the sixth Carbon Budget will see us go further and faster than any other major economy to achieve a completely carbon-neutral future.
“This latest target shows the world that the UK is serious about protecting the health of our planet, while also seizing the new economic opportunities it will bring and capitalising on green technologies – yet another step as we build back greener from the pandemic we lead the world towards a cleaner, more prosperous future for this generation and those to come.”
The UK over-achieved against its first and second Carbon Budgets and is on track to outperform the third Carbon Budget which ends in 2022. This is due to significant cuts in greenhouse gases across the economy and industry, with the UK bringing emissions down 44% overall between 1990 and 2019, and two-thirds in the power sector. The UK also continues to break records in renewable electricity generation, which has more than quadrupled since 2010 while low-carbon electricity overall now gives us over 50% of our total generation.
Prior to enshrining its net-zero commitment in law, the UK had a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 – through the sixth Carbon Budget announcement, the government is aiming to achieve almost the same level 15 years earlier.
Through its presidency of the crucial UN climate summit, COP26, which will take place in Glasgow later this year, the UK is urging countries and companies around the world to join the UK in delivering net zero globally by the middle of the century and set ambitious targets for cutting emissions by 2030. The target emphasises the importance of the 2020s as a decade of delivery on our climate ambitions, and urgent action is needed now to make this a reality.
Welcoming the announcement by the Prime Minister, RenewableUK deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said, “It’s right for the UK to secure its position as a world leader on climate change by stepping up our emissions reduction target in the run-up to the UN summit in Glasgow this year.
“As a next step, to ensure we achieve our ambitions, and to galvanise industry investment, we need to see a specific commitment by government to decarbonise the electricity sector by 100% by 2035, in line with the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations.
“This means setting ambitious deployment targets for onshore wind as well as offshore, alongside innovative technologies like floating wind, wave and tidal energy and renewable hydrogen, as every tool in the box has a vital role to play.
“To ramp up renewable energy development, we also need to see renewable energy projects being consented in a timelier manner, so we are calling for Ministers to put more financial resources into the expert bodies which rigorously scrutinise new applications.
“And critically, we need to accelerate work on upgrading the electricity grid to allow us to maximise the benefits of renewable power for consumers.”