Parliament to debate bill committing UK to net-zero by 2050

A bill which would commit the UK Government to reducing national carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 will be put to Parliament next Tuesday (11 June), the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee has confirmed today (7 June)

Parliament to debate bill committing UK to net-zero by 2050

The CCC's advice on legislating for net-zero by 2050

Developed in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recommendations on legislating for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, which was published last month, the new bill will be introduced to the House by BEIS Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP.

The specifics of the bill are yet to be revealed, but the framework is broadly expected to echo the measures proposed by the CCC. These include bringing the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales forward to 2035; quadrupling the UK’s renewable energy generation capacity; rewilding 20,000 hectares of land annually and deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale.

The BEIS Committee has confirmed that the bill would also include international aviation and shipping. Under the existing Climate Change Act, the UK currently excludes international aviation and certain types of international maritime activity from its overall carbon footprint calculations – a caveat which will be removed by an alteration of the Act if the bill is passed.

Reeves said the aim of the bill is to “bring home to the Government the urgent need to commit to the net-zero 2050 target and give the UK the best possible chance of meeting this challenge.”

“In the UK we have a golden opportunity to deliver environmental benefits, new jobs, and sustainable green industries – but this won’t happen without a coordinated, cross-departmental effort from Government and a cast-iron commitment to achieving a net-zero target,” she said.

“In the final days of her premiership, Theresa May should take this opportunity to take the crucial next step to ending the UK’s contribution to global warming and set out that the whole of Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2050.” 

The bill has already received verbal backing from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

Political shifts

The news from the BEIS Committee comes just hours after May stepped down as Conservative Party leader – a move she confirmed late last month after repeatedly failing to gain support for her Brexit Withdrawal agreement.

She will remain Prime Minister until her successor is chosen, with most reports indicating that she will back the BEIS Committee’s bill, along with the majority of MPs, before being replaced. 

Nonetheless, comments made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond this week have cast doubts over whether there really is top-level Tory support for legislating for net-zero. Hammond claimed that spending cuts for schools, hospitals and the police force would be needed to fund total decarbonisation of the UK economy, which he price estimated at £1trn.

Both the CCC and No 10 have refuted Hammond’s calculations. The CCC’s advice prices the cost of reaching net-zero within the same cost envelope of achieving the 80% carbon emissions reduction which the UK is currently bound to under the Climate Change Act, at between 1-2% of GDP in 2050.  

Green campaign groups have also been quick to take umbrage at Hammond’s sentiments, emphasising the fact that failure to act on climate change is also likely to result in large costs in the form of stranded assets, resource scarcity, reduced competitiveness and increased social and healthcare spending.

WWF’s chief executive Tanya Steel, for example, said the Government should know by now “how to tackle the climate and environment crisis, and do so in a way that leaves the UK public with greater economic security, not less”.

“The investments this requires will not only give future generations security, but in the process create jobs from new, clean industries,” Steele said. “What’s more, this investment will cost less than dealing with a climate breakdown – the reality if we fail to act.”

Sarah George  

Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Only if every molecule of Carbon Dioxide is counted and that includes every breath we take. OK that might sounds ridiculous but the fact that Drax gets renewable subsidies to ship thousands of tonnes of wood pellets across the Atlantic, burning hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel oil every trip, not to mention the diesel used to truck them about and the petrol used to operate the chainsaws, does make a mockery of any claims to be "carbon neutral" or net zero carbon.

    It isn’t just about being net zero carbon but reducing energy wastage across the board, from our homes to our offices to our industries. Then reducing material wastage so we don’t just use something once and throw it away. Everything we do every single day uses energy and creates waste products be that solid waste (plastic bags etc) or waste heat (which may be a bigger driver than CO2 in climate warming).

    Biggest thing we can all do to help though is simple. Grow plants! Window boxes, hanging baskets, pots, raised beds, allotments, rooftop gardens. Green leafed plants everywhere. Clean the air, take in CO2 give out O2, improve air quality and humidity. If we really want to be green then we all need to grow things and stop throwing stuff away.

  2. Colin Matthews says:

    Question-will this be based on life cycle analysis or purely on GHG? There is a big difference and there could be unintended consequences if life cycle analysis is not used.

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