UK sets ‘most ambitious’ climate target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035

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The UK government has set the ‘world’s most ambitious’ climate change target into law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels

In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, this sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050.

For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions.

This 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 (22 April).

Johnson will urge countries to raise 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% through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution. The latest 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.

‘Raising the bar on tackling climate change’

Prime minister Boris Johnson, said: “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s 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, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”

Business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, commented: “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.”

‘Government must clearly map out how it plans to tackle the carbon emissions’

Ben Harris, UK climate change & sustainability director at Arcadis, and Catherine Greaves, managing director of environment, safety & industry, said: “We welcome the news from the UK Government this morning on the adoption of the 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.

“The inclusion of aviation and shipping presents an opportunity for the UK to build on its strengths to progress the development and deployment of new technology and capability that can be used globally. The challenge now is to take the practical steps to make this a reality.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, added: “This is exactly the level of ambition the UK should be displaying if it wants to strengthen its position as a world leader on tackling climate change.

“However, a major shortcoming of previous Government targets has been its inability to meet them. We’re currently on track to miss the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, meaning we urgently need the policies and practical solutions which will enable us to deliver on this commitment, not just dream about it.

“Before talking up his away game and acting like the UK is in a climate ‘super league’, the PM needs to start getting his home form in order, and ensure he’s not missing open goals.

“If we are to take this new target seriously, Government must clearly map out how it plans to tackle the carbon emissions attributable to the built environment, which account for approximately 40% of UK emissions.”

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