Ed Miliband pushes for net-zero emissions goal ahead of UN summit

EXCLUSIVE: Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has called on the UK Government to build momentum towards the next UN climate summit by enshrining a new net-zero emissions target for 2050.

Prime Minister Theresa May this week evaded a question from Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister Alan Whitehead during Prime Minister’s Questions on whether such a target would be forthcoming, saying only that the UK was “leading the way in relation to dealing with the issue of climate change”.

Speaking exclusively to edie today (21 June), Miliband expressed his dismay at May’s response, and urged the Government to set a precedent to other countries by introducing a net-zero target before December’s COP24 summit in Poland.

“It is very important that [BEIS Clean Growth Minister] Claire Perry brings up this question of net-zero,” Miliband said. “I was disappointed by Theresa May’s response in the House of Commons yesterday, but I am not sure it necessarily tells us what the Government is going to do.

“To build momentum towards COP at the end of the year it is really important that the Government moves on net-zero as I do think it will have a domino effect on others. So, I am going to be pushing them. I only got an agreement two years ago from the Government in principle to put net-zero into UK law, but we now need to make that happen.”

Clean Growth Minister Perry announced in April that the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) would be instructed to provide formal advice to the Government on how the UK’s emissions targets should be adjusted to align with its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Experts claim that a net-zero target is needed to keep the world in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of a global temperature limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

‘Triple Z’

Miliband was speaking to edie following a high-profile panel debate he was involved in to discuss progress in the decade since the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act – the world-leading target which legally binds the UK to emissions reductions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

The Labour MP for Doncaster North – who was lauded for his role as DECC Secretary when that 80% target was introduced – claimed during the debate that the Act has been “ahead of its time”, but admitted this was no longer the case as other countries had pushed forward with greater ambition.

Indeed, just this week, EU negotiators struck a deal which agreed to aim for a net-zero carbon economy “as early as possible”.

Miliband said that a net-zero emissions economy should form part of a ‘Triple Z’ policy suite; also consisting of a zero-carbon vehicles goal ahead of the proposed 2040 target, and a return of the axed zero-carbon homes policy, “as soon as possible”.

Other panellists at the event, organised by Policy Exchange, included Minister Perry, Lib Dem peer Baroness Featherstone and Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, which will publish its annual report next week detailing how the UK is progressing towards its legally binding targets.

Currently, UK emissions are down 41% from 1990 levels thanks in part to major reductions in the power industry caused by a phase-out of coal-fired power generation.

Stark hinted that his organisation’s impending document would spell out the need for work in the areas of buildings, agriculture and transport – the latter of which last year overtook power as the UK’s most emitting sector.


The Government’s Fifth Carbon Budget, covering 2028 to 2032, agrees to reduce emissions by an average of 57% on 1990 levels over the period.

During the panel debate, Perry attempted to alleviate longstanding concerns that the UK will miss its Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets in the 2020s and 2030s, citing policy measures set out in the recent Clean Growth Strategy and support from other governmental departments on climate action.

Perry said: “I think cross-government support is becoming much easier, because what everyone has realised is that deep decarbonisation and economic growth are no longer opposing objectives. The green economy is growing far faster than the traditional economy. Crucially, the workforce of the future wants to work for companies that are doing the right thing and growing in a sustainable way with a lighter footprint and innovating and creating solutions for the planet.

“It has become an absolute win-win. So whether you are sitting around the Cabinet table thinking about your portfolio, the one thing you know you need is a strong growing economy to fund your particular service area and people can see the opportunities for the UK in this space.”

George Ogleby

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