UK Legislates for Net Zero Carbon by 2050 (Update)
(Adds comments from industry at end)
UK prime minister Theresa May has announced that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050. The statutory instrument to implement this will be laid in parliament June 12 and it will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.
May will also meet young science and engineering students to discuss the ambitious new target, which is based on advice from independent experts: the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), her press office said.
In its report, the CCC forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the state National Health Service from better air quality.
The legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions, with other major economies expected to follow suit, the statement said. The UK will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that UK industries do not face unfair competition.
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.... 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.”
The CCC, an independent body, has acknowledged that the government has laid "strong foundations" through its Clean Growth Strategy and taken action to tackle climate change across key sectors of the economy identified by the report.
The Confederation of British Industries backed the announcement, saying it stood "squarely behind the government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050." But it must be followed by a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy, it said in the joint statement.
“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." It said the UK would "retain the ability to use international carbon credits. Using international credits within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework is the right thing to do for the planet." The UK is bidding to host the giant UN-led COP26 next year, following on from the COP25 in Paris.
Upstream 'an essential partner to UK climate ambitions'
The offshore industry lobby group Oil & Gas UK reinforced the role the industry can play in supporting the UK to meet its climate change ambitions. OGUK CEO Deirdre Michie set out the role industry can play to enable the energy systems of the future and to help the development of technology that can mitigate carbon from other heavy emitting industries.
“Achieving net zero is a huge challenge that will affect all industries, businesses and people. Our sector needs to be involved in this agenda, work to realise the opportunities it presents and be an essential partner in supporting the UK to achieve its climate change ambitions.
“We can help design the diverse energy system we need for the future, and through our knowledge and experience can be a central part of developing some of the technology needed to mitigate carbon from other heavy emitting industries through for example, carbon capture use and storage.
“We have already welcomed the Climate Change Committee report and are engaging with our members on the practical steps we need to take to in relation to continuing to manage and reduce the emissions from our own activities, to play our part in achieving net zero.
“With world-leading engineering skills, infrastructure and energy expertise, our industry stands ready to work with sectors across the UK economy to enable the UK to achieve its climate change goals," she said.
And writing on LinkedIn, the head of vehicle fuel supplier CNG Services John Baldwin hailed the new law as the salvation of the gas industry. He said: "Net zero announced, the politicians have checked and we can afford it. It amounts to the biggest vote of confidence in the gas industry in the history of votes of confidence.... All those retired gas engineers who spend their final salary pensions on cruises need to come back to work."
'It is the right thing to do': EUA
The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) whose members include pipeline operators, said the government was acting in good time to address the problem. CEO Mike Foster said the UK was now "at the forefront of climate change policy, with our Climate Change Act. And the announcement today that we will be the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, shows why.
“Now it’s the turn of the policy makers to create the environment in which industry can achieve net zero. For policy-makers grappling with how to decarbonise heat, they need to keep focussed on peak heat demand.
“Green gases such as hydrogen, biomethane and bio SNG are being increasingly recognised as the preferred solution to meet UK heat demand, which is seasonal and demands a flexible supply. Our members are poised to deliver and ready to work collaboratively with government to introduce it into people’s homes, businesses and into the UK transport network. EUA believes that green gas addresses the energy trilemma by providing a secure, affordable and flexible source of energy.
“Government have already made a commitment to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid, which will allow for a consumer focused delivery of low carbon heating. They recognise that our world-leading gas grid is a national asset supplying the vast majority of homes, meeting peak heat demands, in a cost-effective manner,” he concluded.
UK must skill up: engineers
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said "the importance of skills should not be forgotten in this transition. The engineering challenges involved are daunting and as a country we need to ensure that our workers have the competencies to deliver net zero.
“Achieving net zero will require a transformation of our energy system and the deployment of a broad range of new technologies in every sector of our economy.
"The UK has made great progress in reducing emissions, in particular from the power sector, but going further will necessitate a major upgrade of our energy infrastructure.
"But this should also be seen as an opportunity. In being the first country to legally commit becoming a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy, we can become more innovative and reap the benefits of leading on the development of the novel technologies of tomorrow," it concluded.