UK commits to net zero emissions by 2050

Theresa May
Image: Alexandros Michailidis /

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed the United Kingdom to be net zero emissions by 2050, amending the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 to legislate it.

In doing so, the UK is on track to become the first major economy of the G7 nations to set a net zero emissions target in law – a precedent that could, and should, see other major economies follow suit, according to the UK Government.

“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,” Ms May said.

“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.

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“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.”

Environmental groups have welcomed the goal, but have expressed concerns over the fact the plan would allow the UK to achieve it in part due to international carbon credits.

“As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, it is right that the UK is the world’s first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through international carbon credits undermines that commitment,” Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr said.

“This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according to the government’s climate advisers, cost-efficient.”

UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark said a report commissioned from the independent Committee on Climate Change makes clear that the government has laid the foundations necessary to achieve net zero emissions and that it is necessary and feasible.

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“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,” Mr Clark said.

May is set to leave the role as Prime Minister in the coming weeks, as soon as her successor is chosen, due to the controversy surrounding Brexit.