'UK business stands squarely behind the government's commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050'
The government will tomorrow lay a statutory instrument before Parliament that will amend the Climate Change Act and introduce a legally-binding net zero emission target for 2050.
The move makes the UK the first G7 economy to adopt a net zero target and puts the country at the forefront of a global trend that has seen a host of governments around the world ratchet up their climate goals in recent months.
It paves the way for the UK to strengthen its medium-term emissions targets and introduce a raft of new policies to engineer a step change in the pace of decarbonisation. The move is designed to send the clearest signal yet to businesses and investors that deep decarbonisation over the next three decades is now non-negotiable.
However, it also raises a host of questions about how to fully eradicate greenhouse gas emissions across the economy, especially in sectors such as aviation, heating, shipping, agriculture, and heavy industry where the pathways towards net zero emissions remain unclear.
The government said it was "imperative" that other major economies follow suit and confirmed it would conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action so as to ensure domestic industries do not face unfair competition.
In addition, the government announced the launch of a Youth Steering Group to help shape a net zero strategy that responds to calls for bolder climate action from younger people.
Politicians and business leaders from across the green economy today welcomed the news, and stepped up calls for the government to urgently introduce fresh policies to unlock a fresh wave of decarbonisation.
BusinessGreen rounds up the reaction to the historic adoption of net zero emission legislation.
Prime Minister Theresa May said:
"As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.
"Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. 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.
"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."
Business Secretary Greg Clark said:
"We want to continue our global leadership and that's why we are introducing a legally binding net zero target to end the UK's contribution to global warming entirely by 2050. The report we commissioned from the Committee on Climate Change makes clear that we have laid the foundations to achieve a net zero emissions economy, and that it is necessary and feasible.
"Almost 400,000 people are already employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains across the country. Through our modern Industrial Strategy we're investing in clean growth to ensure we reap the rewards and create two million high quality jobs by 2030."
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE, CBI Director-General, said:
"UK business stands squarely behind the Government's commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it.
"Climate leadership can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity. This legislation must be followed by a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy.
"Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future."
Chris Skidmore, acting Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, said:
"Legislating for net zero reflects the urgent and pressing challenge of tackling global climate change as well as our aspirations to lead the world in tackling it.
"We've been able to build and maintain a world-leading record on tackling climate change thanks to our reputation for pioneering science and innovation. We've made the case for urgent action at home and abroad, but that has not happened overnight.
"I'm extremely proud of the crucial role the best and brightest scientists in the UK have played in contributing to the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
"Their work has not only helped us to take this major step to ending our contribution towards global warming entirely by 2050, they are also helping us to find ground-breaking solutions to the problem thanks £90m government investment each year in climate research.
"As the way we live our lives changes over the next 30 years, our scientists will remain at the cutting edge of research, ensuring we end our contribution to global warming entirely by 2050."
Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary, said:
"While this announcement is welcome in theory, in practice it comes from a Conservative Government that is off track to meet existing climate targets, that has no plans for legislation or investment needed to cut emissions, and that has dismantled the UK renewable energy sector while pushing fracking. The government is a bit like a marathon runner with the wrong shoes, the wrong diet and no training expecting to break the world record; it looks less like ambition and more like delusion."
Director of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group Eliot Whittington said:
"The government has just fired the starting gun on delivery of a climate neutral economy by 2050. This is a tremendously significant move which will send a clear signal to business across the UK and internationally that the net zero revolution has begun in earnest.
"The challenge now is to bring the full innovative potential of the UK economy to bear on this - developing new opportunities and industries that can deliver real competitive advantage for business, while safeguarding our environment and society.
"A chorus of voices from sectors and communities across the UK have supported the government in making this decision. The challenge now is to deliver on it. Accountability and ownership of this agenda should sit at the top of government and be mainstreamed across UK policymaking, in order to deliver a thriving, competitive, inclusive zero carbon economy."
Energy UK's chief executive, Lawrence Slade, said:
"This exciting commitment from the Government to meeting the 2050 net-zero target will see the UK continue its world-leading role in tackling climate change, and the energy sector is ready to lead further progress which will deliver benefits for the environment, the economy and customers.
"The power sector has led the way in helping reduce the UK's carbon emissions. Half of our electricity generation now comes from low carbon sources and the recent coal-free fortnight is testimony to a rate of progress, at a lower cost, than anyone could have foreseen a few years ago.
"Net-zero can be achieved but only if the ambition is supported by the right policies. As our recent Future of Energy report highlighted, we need to go further and faster in areas like decarbonising transport and heating and improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. This can only happen with consistent and bold policy-making from across all government departments to support the target and we look forward to working with the Government to achieve our shared ambition."
Paul Dickinson, Executive Chair at CDP, said:
"The UK is on course to be a world leader in the low-carbon transition thanks to the amendment to the Climate Change Act 2008 that was announced today. This is good news both for the world and for the UK economy. In the face of the climate crisis, net zero greenhouse gas emissions must be the direction of travel, and reaching it by 2050 is in line with the IPCC's latest research and the more ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement: to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. To get there, we need to consider the whole economy, including the UK's contributions to climate change globally. Climate change does not respect national borders.
"Setting the target into law is a vital step, but now the government needs to ensure the policies and funding are in place to implement it. There is broad support among the business community and the wider public, with concern at an all-time high. From CDP's work with companies, cities and investors over the last 18 years we know climate change has quickly risen up the agenda to become a boardroom and city hall issue.
"And there's absolutely no question that this is the right economic choice. The financial cost of climate impacts is enormous while the benefits of a low-carbon economy are even greater. Just last week CDP's latest climate analysis showed that just over 200 of the world's biggest companies are exposed to close to $1tr of potential climate risks in the next five years. But it's not all bad news. They also reported business opportunities from the low-carbon transition worth $2.1tr and, crucially, estimated the value of these opportunities to be over seven times the cost of achieving them. The business case is clear, the time to act is now."
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:
"We now need a fair and robust plan to get there that everyone can get behind. That means government, business and trade unions working together on a ‘just transition'.
"Working people must have a say through transition agreements in their workplaces. And there must be a guaranteed path to high-quality work in a green economy for anyone whose job may be at risk."
Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, who organised a cross-party letter that saw over 190 MPs call for a net zero target, said:
"Ambitious plans are needed to tackle climate change - our planet demands it. Today's announcement has proven a commitment to exactly that. By enshrining this target into law, the Prime Minister has shown that the UK can and will meet the challenges of climate change and play our part to limit global warming to 1.5C."
Keith Anderson, CEO, ScottishPower, said:
"The cost of our carbon economy is too high - too high on bills, our environment and our health. We strongly welcome the CCC's recommendation that the UK should set a net-zero emissions target by 2050. At ScottishPower, we have long recognised that our sector has a critical role to play. That's why we generate 100 per cent green energy, but if we are to deliver the recommended quadrupling of renewable electricity generation by 2050, we must be able to keep investing record amounts to deliver clean energy in the most cost-effective way, through offshore and onshore wind."
Shell's UK Country Chair Sinead Lynch said:
"Shell fully supports this ambition for the UK to move faster. Achieving net zero in the UK by 2050 will require unprecedented collaboration between government, business and society. Government needs to set clear and ambitious targets and create the right policies to enable companies like Shell to adapt and respond quickly. We stand ready to play our part."
Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), said:
"We strongly welcome the decision by the UK Government to implement the advice of the Climate Change Committee to set a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
"Such a clear signal of global climate leadership will contribute to increased investor confidence and help to ensure that the many opportunities for economic growth, new jobs, technological innovation and increased competitiveness are realised.
"Investors look forward to working closely with the UK Government as this target is implemented so that all supporting policy measures and instruments are designed to attract the private capital which is required to create a clean economy."
Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer at BT, said:
"Since the Paris Agreement, BT and others have called on policymakers to set more ambitious targets and provide the right legislation so that we can take quicker, more meaningful climate action. As BT works towards its own net zero target, it's great to see the Government send a real signal of intent which we hope will inspire others as we look to tackle one of society's biggest challenges."
Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA, said:
"We welcome the government's decision to set a legally-binding 2050 net zero carbon emissions target, reaffirming the UK's climate leadership position. Tacking the urgency of climate change and meeting the 2050 target will require comprehensive policies and all parts of the economy and society will need to play their part in rapidly reducing UK emissions."
"We also believe that the forthcoming Office for Environmental Protection, being established through the new Environment Act, must be given powers to enforce climate change laws to give build trust and provide assurance to the public and businesses that government policies and plans to them are consistent with the long-term net zero target."
Lit Ping Low, climate change adviser at PwC, said:
"While not a surprise, this announcement is a big deal that will drive the behaviours and tech innovations needed to meet the ambitious target.
"The Committee on Climate Change has been advocating the net zero target for a some time, and the UK government had signalled that it was moving in this direction. But signals are not the same as commitment. The new target gives businesses clarity that low carbon targets must be an essential part of business strategy and decisions, whether it's about building or upgrading their infrastructure, developing new products and services, implementing policies for employees, or sourcing supplies.
"The target is ambitious but it needs to be to incentivise behaviour - meeting it is dependent on decisions and technology developments, now and in the coming years, to help reduce emissions. For example, recent research we developed with Microsoft shows greater adoption of AI across even a few sectors could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 4 percent. The Government will be banking on new technologies being developed and deployed to help get emissions to almost zero."
Nick Mabey, CEO of think tank E3G, said:
"As the first major economy in the world to legislate for net-zero emissions, this will inspire other countries to follow. It is an act of true leadership on the international stage. A net-zero target is also critical for business, giving them the confidence to invest now in powering ahead with a prosperous zero carbon transition. But this target will be meaningless unless the Government ramps up its policies and public investment to get us on track. Net-Zero must now be put at the heart of the UK's economic mission and infrastructure plans."
Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate Change at WWF, said:
"Today's net zero announcement is a crucial first step, demonstrating that those in power are beginning to listen and acknowledge the critical state of our planet.
"If we want future generations to live on a viable planet where the mass extinctions we're witnessing halt, food security is ensured and coastal regions are safe, then Government must accelerate policies and commit resource to slashing emissions, heat our homes with clean energy and make climate action a priority across all departments.
"The past decade has shown what is possible - we know what is needed to get to net zero and the speed of development in innovative technologies, like solar panels and wind turbines, should give us hope that we can go even further and faster, reaching net zero by 2045."
Mike Knight, senior advisor at Carbon Tracker, said:
"Carbon Tracker endorses efforts to decarbonise the UK economy; but we can't miss the big picture - to look at the UK's international climate impact, let's not forget that the City finances, at minimum 15 per cent of global CO2 emissions. The City's fossil fuel financing role could become ever more significant, as some in the UK government see it as an economic jewel, particularly in a Brexit context."
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said:
"This is probably the most important UK move on climate change since Parliament brought in the Climate Change Act more than a decade ago.
"By becoming the first major nation to set a net zero target in national legislation, ahead of the likes of France and Germany, it restores the UK to a position of international leadership with a target that's fully in line with science and will deliver the UK's fair share of keeping global warming below the ‘safe' level of 1.5C.
"It brings the clarity that business has been asking for, enabling companies to make rational investment decisions and so make the clean energy transition as efficient as possible.
"And it's going to act as a massive spur to the UK's bid to host the UN climate summit in 2020, because the UK can now legitimately say that it has done what all governments will have to soon, committing to ending its contribution to climate change."
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