UK legislates for net zero emissions target by 2050

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Legislation laid today (12 June) puts the UK on the path to become the first major economy to set net zero emissions target in law

Theresa May has announced that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in Parliament today (12 June). This will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.

Theresa May will also meet young science and engineering students to discuss the ambitious new net zero emissions target, which is based on advice from independent experts: the Committee on Climate Change.

In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, as well as improved biodiversity.

Responding to the news, CCC chairman, Lord Deben said: “We are delighted that the government has agreed to put a 2050 net zero target for all greenhouse gases to a parliamentary vote. I look forward to the same cross-party consensus that we saw in 2008, when the Climate Change Act became law.

“Our report concluded that net zero is necessary, feasible and cost-effective. This is a major commitment for the coming decades, but we have highlighted the significant benefits of action. This step will send a strong signal to other countries to follow suit – and will help to drive the global effort to tackle climate change required by the Paris Agreement.

“This is just the first step. The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole. The government has not yet moved formally to include international aviation and shipping within the target, but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero. We will assist by providing further analysis of how emissions reductions can be delivered in these sectors through domestic and international frameworks.

“The Committee on Climate Change will now move to the task of providing advice on the detailed path to net zero. Our statutory advice to government on the UK’s Carbon Budgets to 2037 is due next year.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “This is a powerful and positive move by the Prime Minister that will give her time in office a legacy beyond Brexit. Setting this important and necessary target now sends a strong signal to business that Britain is ready to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis.

“UKGBC knows that the built environment contains some of the biggest opportunities to slash emissions. We must accelerate action in all areas including improving the efficiency of our ageing building stock, and overcoming the challenge of decarbonising heat. To do this, we need to see both policy and industry leadership to ensure the built environment is at the vanguard of emissions reductions. There is no time to lose, now is the time to act.”

Jack Pringle, EMEA regional director at global architects Perkins+Will, commented: “The government moving to legislate the net zero targets by the middle of the century is a truly historic moment for the UK and the planet. Not only will the UK become the first G7 economy to bring net zero targets into law, but this legislation will send a clear message to all sectors of the economy that the transition is underway and they must get on board if they don’t want to get left behind.

“Reaching net zero by 2050 will require far-reaching and disruptive innovation in all ares of the economy – especially within the built environment – but this legislative backbone will help guide, support and stimulate industry to do so, laying the legal blueprint for rapid decarbonisation.

“While we must applaud this historic moment for what it is, the last thing we should do is rest on our laurels as the race to net zero is on and there is still a lot to be done to stamp out our emissions. In particular, we still have not developed a systematic method of decarbonising the existing building stock – the most difficult of which is our enormous historic housing stock. The construction industry needs to step up to this challenge and bring to government methods of decarbonising existing stock.”

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