Shadow Chancellor tells the FT climate science suggests 2050 net zero target date may have to be pulled forward
Labour has signalled it could pull forward the new 2050 target date for the UK to deliver a net zero emission economy, arguing the latest climate science suggests an earlier date may be required.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he was exploring whether Labour should formally back a more ambitious target.
The opposition has previously said it wanted to see a net zero target "no later than 2050". Yesterday Labour welcomed the government's announcement of a new goal, while also calling on Ministers to urgently deliver detailed policies to accelerate the pace of UK decarbonisation.
However, Labour is under pressure from campaigners to adopt an earlier target with the Extinction Rebellion group arguing for a 2025 date and the Corbynite campaign group Momentum calling for a 2030 goal.
"Our target was no later than 2050, basically, but it wasn't a fixed target and I think we're going to have to pull that back in the light of the science that we now know," McDonnell told the FT.
"I want to aim for 2030 if I can, of course, but at the moment all the advice that we're getting is that that isn't realistic," he added. "So we've got to test that and look at the range of policies we need to enable that to happen."
Last month the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended the UK should set a 2050 net zero target, but warned an earlier date would involve huge technical risks and higher costs.
Some experts have warned delivering a net zero economy by 2025 or 2030 would be virtually impossible, requiring massive write offs of carbon intensive assets, multi-billion pound investments, and huge state interventions.
However, campaigners have noted the IPCC last year calculated that in order to keep global temperature increases below 1.5C industrialised nations should aim to become net zero by around 2045.
Sweden has set a target to be net zero emission by 2045, while Finland recently confirmed plans to become a carbon neutral economy by 2035.
Green groups hope that as clean tech costs fall and new technologies emerge the UK's 2050 target date could be pulled forward, as has effectively happened in the past decade with the CCC calculating that meeting a net zero target has the same one to two per cent of GDP estimated price tag as the previous 80 per cent emissions reduction target had 12 years ago.
Announcing the new net zero target yesterday, the government confirmed it would commission the Treasury to undertake a review of projected net zero costs in order to explore how they can be reduced and where they should fall. It also confirmed the target would be reviewed in five years to ensure other countries are adopting similar goals.
Some economists have argued that when co-benefits such as cleaner air and enhanced energy security are taken into account the net zero transition should deliver net benefits to the economy. But others have countered that decarbonising areas such as heat and industry is likely to require significant investments, sparking concerns about the cost impact on poorer households and businesses that face intense overseas competition.
Polling published by Sky Data yesterday highlighted some of the political challenges governments could face in delivering net zero, with only 36 per cent of people saying they would support raising taxes to help meet the new target and just 27 per cent supporting increased borrowing to drive the net zero transition. In contrast, 41 per cent opposed higher taxes and 45 per cent opposed more borrowing.
However, broad business support for the new net zero target continued to flood-in yesterday, with leading trade bodies and blue chip firms lining up to back the target and call on the government to urgently introduce new decarbonisation policies. Meanwhile, other polls have shown public concern with environmental issues is at its highest level in over a decade.
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