UK Can Achieve “Net-Zero” Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2050

The UK can end its contribution to global warming within 30 years by setting an ambitious new target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says today.

The report states that global average temperature has risen by 1°C from pre-industrial levels, driving changes in our climate that are increasingly apparent.

In the last ten years, pledges to reduce emissions by the countries of the world have reduced the forecast of global warming from above 4°C by the end of the century to around 3°C. 

Net-zero in the UK would lead the global effort to further limit the rise to 1.5°C, the Committee’s report finds.

Lord Deben – “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 CCC’s recommended targets cover all sectors of the UK, Scottish and Welsh economies, are “achievable with known technologies”, the Committee says.

Scotland has greater potential to remove pollution from its economy than the UK overall, and can credibly adopt a more ambitious target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2045, it says.

Wales has slightly lower opportunities than the UK as a whole, and should adopt a target for a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, 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.”

“Net-Zero”

The Committee’s report, requested by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in light of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC’s Special Report in 2018, finds that the foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net-zero economy are already active or in development. 

Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible, given that most sectors of the economy will need to cut their emissions to zero by 2050. 

The Committee’s conclusion that the UK can achieve a net-zero GHG target by 2050 and at acceptable cost is entirely contingent on the introduction without delay of clear, stable and well-designed policies across the emitting sectors of the economy. 

Government must set the direction and provide the urgency. The public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed. 

Serious plans are needed to clean up the UK’s heating systems, to deliver the infrastructure for carbon capture and storage technology and to drive transformational change in how we use our land.

There are multiple benefits of the transition to a zero-carbon economy, the Committee’s report shows. 

These include benefits to people’s health from better air quality, less noise thanks to quieter vehicles, more active travel thanks to increased rates of cycling and walking, healthier diets, and increased recreational benefits from changes to land use.

In addition, the UK could receive an industrial boost as it leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs.

The report follows a decision by Westminster MPs yesterday (1 May) to declare a “climate and environmental emergency”.


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