Tuesday 11 June 2019 10:31 pm

Government plan sets UK on track to cut emissions to zero by 2050

Parties and campaign groups praised the Prime Minister as she today announced a plan to eliminate Britain’s contribution to global warming by mid-century.

A government bill, introduced tomorrow, will put Britain on a path more ambitious than any other G7 economy.

It calls for the country to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“This is a legacy Theresa May can be proud of,” said Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist.

The government’s targets a month after they were recommended by its advisors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

May said the country must go “further and faster” to protect the environment.

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations,” she added.

How much will it cost?

Last week a letter from chancellor Philip Hammond surfaced, warning the Prime Minister that net zero could cost the economy more than £1 trillion.

Some industries could become “economically uncompetitive,” he said in the letter seen by the Financial Times. Downing Street later hit out at the chancellor.

The CCC estimates it will cost one to two per cent of GDP per year. This falls within current spending limits set in 2008 legislation.

What happens next?

CCC chair Lord Deben said it was now vital the government backs up its commitment with credible policies.

His organisation has recommended using one fifth of land to plant trees, restore peatland and plant energy crops. It also advocates banning all new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, five years earlier than the government’s current target.

“Strong, early action on cutting carbon emissions is vital and will help ensure the UK reaps the health, environmental, and business benefits of achieving net zero,” said Rachel Reeves, Labour MP and chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) Committee.

Britain is already bound to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990s levels.

The CCC says technological progress has meant the new target can be achieved at no extra cost.

And it stressed that the cost will encourage new industries, and cleaner air will reduce strain on the NHS.

“The UK is already a centre for clean growth and innovation. Low carbon technology and clean energy contribute £44.5 billion to our economy every year,” said business secretary Greg Clark.

What’s not in there?

Campaigners expressed concern that the UK would be able to count investment in low-carbon technology abroad in its new target.

“It is disappointing that the government has ignored its climate advisors recommendation to exclude carbon offsets – as well as caving into Treasury pressure to review the target in five years’ time,” said Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett

“Fiddling the figures would put a huge dent in our ability to avoid catastrophic climate change – and the government’s credibility for taking this issue seriously. Having declared a climate emergency, Parliament must act to close these loopholes.”

And Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has shot to prominence with her school strikes for the climate, has said the government is overstating how much it has cut emissions.