The UK Government will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78 percent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, announced today (Tuesday 20 April).
This puts the UK in a leading position ahead of hosting the crucial COP26 climate summit later this year, with the ‘ratchet’ mechanism of the Paris Agreement requiring countries to put forward strengthened climate action targets known as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ every 5 years. Through its COP26 presidency, 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 in order to keep 1.5 degree warming in reach.
In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, the world-leading Sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a five-year period from 2033-2037, 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.
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.”
COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma, said:
“This hugely positive step forward for the UK sets a gold standard for ambitious Paris-aligned action that I urge others to keep pace with ahead ofCOP26 in Glasgow later this year. We must collectively keep 1.5 degrees of warming in reach and the next decade is the most critical period for us to change the perilous course we are currently on.
“Long term targets must be backed up with credible delivery plans, and setting this Net Zero focused sixth carbon budget builds on the world leading legal framework in our Climate Change Act. If we are to tackle the climate crisis and safeguard lives livelihoods and nature for future generations, others must follow the UK’s example.”
For the first time, this 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.
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). The Prime Minister 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% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution – the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date. Today’s world-leading 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 today.
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.
Moreover, the UK 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 today’s Sixth Carbon Budget announcement, the government is aiming to achieve almost the same level 15 years earlier.
The government has already laid the groundwork to end the UK’s contribution to carbon change by 2050, starting with ambitious strategies that support polluting industries to decarbonise while growing the economy and creating new, long-term green jobs.
This includes the publication of the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, an ambitious blueprint for the world’s first low carbon industrial sector, slashing emissions by two-thirds in just 15 years, as well as over £1 billion government funding to cut emissions from industry, schools and hospitals.
Further, the UK is the first G7 country to agree a landmark. North Sea Transition Deal to support the oil and gas industry’s transition to clean, green energy while supporting 40,000 jobs. Through the deal, the sector has committed to cut emissions by 50% by 2030, while the government, sector and trade unions will work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea production.
Everyone needs to play a role in tackling climate change and bringing businesses and the public along is vital to reach the UK’s climate change goals. Ahead of COP26, the government launched the campaign. ‘Together For Our Planet’, calling on businesses, civil society groups, schools and the British public to take action on climate change. This UK-wide initiative contributed to last month’s milestone achievement of securing pledges from a third of the UK’s largest businesses to eliminate their contribution to climate change by 2050.
Each of these leading measures to tackle climate change, alongside the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution and the government’s Energy White Paper, will help the UK’s trajectory towards meeting the new Sixth Carbon Budget.
The government wants to make it as easy as possible for people to shift towards a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, whilst maintaining people’s freedom of choice, including their diet. That is why the government’s Sixth Carbon Budget is based on its own analysis and does not follow each of the Climate Change Committee’s specific policy recommendations.
Instead, the UK is bringing forward bold blueprints setting out its own vision for transitioning to a net zero economy and how the government can support the public in transitioning to low carbon technologies, including publishing the Heating and Building Strategy and Transport Decarbonisation Plan later this Spring.
The cross-government Net Zero Strategy will also be published ahead of COP26, with Business Secretary KwasiKwarteng currently commissioning work across Whitehall to help inform the ambitious plans across key sectors of the economy.
Moreover, government analysis finds that costs of action on climate change are outweighed by the significant benefits – reducing polluting emissions, as well as bringing fuel savings, improvements to air quality and enhancing biodiversity. The government expects the costs of meeting net zero to continue to fall as green technology advances, industries decarbonise and private sector investment grows.
Reaching net zero will also be essential to sustainable long-term growth and therefore the health of public finances, as well as open up new opportunities for the UK economy, jobs and trade – and the government’s ambitious proposals are essential to seizing these opportunities.
HM Treasury will publish its Net Zero Review in the coming months setting out how government plans to maximise economic growth opportunities from the net zero transition while ensuring contributions are fair between consumers, businesses and the British taxpayer.
The UK is the first country to enter legally binding long-term carbon budgets into legislation, first introduced as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act. Since then, five carbon budgets have been put into law putting the UK on track to meet our ambitious goal to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050 and achieve net zero emissions.