Thursday, 22 August, 2019

May commits the United Kingdom to net zero emissions to fight climate emergency

Global carbon emissions grew by 2.0 per cent last year the highest rate since 2010-2011 a closely-watched review by energy giant BP said on Tuesday calling the trend “unsustainable”. — AFP  File Global carbon emissions rose at the fastest rate in seven years: report
Elijah Vega | 14 June, 2019, 20:45

Britain is to become the first major economy to adopt laws that require no fossil-fuel emissions by 2050 to fight climate change. The PM will also meet young science and engineering students today to discuss the ambitious new target, which is based on advice from independent experts the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), commissioned by the government in October.

"Net-zero can be achieved but only if the ambition is supported by the right policies". However, it is imperative that other major economies follow suit and so for that reason, the United Kingdom will conduct a further assessment within 5 years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK's lead and ensuring that British industries do not face unfair competition.

The UK will retain the ability to use global carbon credits within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework, allowing the UK to maximise the value of each pound spent on climate change mitigation. "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". The target date for "net zero" emissions is the first set by a leading economy, and is a response to growing calls for action to tackle the climate emergency from faith groups, the Extinction Rebellion protesters (News, 18 April), and striking schoolchildren led by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg (News, 22 March). Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has expressed concerns that they "do not go far or fast enough", for example, while Work and Pension Secretary Esther McVey has claimed that more needs to be done to couple decarbonisation with the protection of social and economic security for working-class people. "This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth", May said.

The Climate Change Act 2008 committed the United Kingdom to reduce net emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in Parliament today, Wednesday 12 June.

Other groups criticised the Government's inclusion of worldwide carbon credits as part of the net-zero target, which may allow for some of the carbon reduction to be outsourced to developing countries, slowing the transformation of the United Kingdom economy.

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Smaller European countries, including the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden already have the "net zero" target enshrined in domestic laws, some of which are more ambitious than the United Kingdom proposal.

The country now aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. A leaked Treasury letter has warned a zero-carbon economy would cost at least £1trillion. 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.

"The target must now be reinforced by credible United Kingdom policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole". This will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the government's National Infrastructure Strategy, which is due to be published during the autumn, must be "unambiguously bold" in setting a "clear and achievable path to ensure the United Kingdom becomes a low-carbon nation". "The engineering challenges involved are daunting and as a country we need to ensure that our workers have the competencies to deliver net zero".

At the Solar Trade Association, chief executive Chris Hewitt, also took the view that "long-term targets are meaningless without action".

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