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UK’s 2050 Zero Carbon Target

June 2019 by Helen Filby

The UK Government have unveiled a new legally binding target to be net-zero carbon by 2050, replacing the old 80% emissions reduction pledge that came from the 2008 Climate Change Act. It is the first country, of those historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, to set this kind of zero carbon goal. The term zero carbon or “net zero” means that emissions from all sectors, including domestic, will have to be avoided completely, or in cases where this is most difficult, offset through various methods. These methods could include planting trees, peatland restoration or carbon capture and store (sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere – technology not yet tried and tested), but offsetting should only be reserved for those emissions remaining after every step has been taken to bring them to zero.

Following suit of Scotland and Wales, the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency. This points to a change in the way climate breakdown is being handled in the UK, rather taking a U-turn on its previous apathy. Although many green groups have praised these recent moves, many say it is still too little, too late, and the damage will already be done – surpassing the 1.5 degrees of warming limit, stressed as necessary in a recent IPCC report.

There is still time to limit warming to 2 degrees. To do this, urgent action must be taken. Rather than hoping the target will solve all our climate needs by simply existing, we need big emission cuts of 50% a year, and this will take the action of everyone – individuals, businesses, and government – working together.

Extinction Rebellion, who took over London city centre for 10 days back in April of this year were one group pushing for a much more ambitious 2025 zero carbon target. The group may, however, be pleased with the announcement of a citizens assembly that will be convened in the autumn – another of their demands. With climate action on the agenda, the representative group will be asked to confer over some of the fastest and most equitable ways to curb the UK’s carbon emissions, hopefully heading towards solutions for tackling the climate crisis, and bringing emissions to zero over the next 30 years. This board will be advisory rather than binding, so ultimately, our ability as a nation to meet this accelerated zero carbon target, what is enforced and how quickly, will still be in the government’s hands.

Let’s not forget that we were not on track to meet the 80% by 2050 target. So whilst this accelerated target to be zero carbon by the same date is a great step in the right direction, to get big polluters onboard and acting with the urgency the climate crisis demands, there is still a long way to go.

We each play a part, so keep doing all you can:
– Take action to reduce your emission in your work and personal life
– Communicate the urgency and need for action
– Help others to do the same

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