UK sets target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE UK has set a new legally-binding target of cutting emissions by 78% from 1990 levels by 2035, building on its previous target of cutting emissions by 68% by 2030.

The previous target of a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030 was part of the UK’s new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – its pledge under the Paris Agreement – which was announced in December last year. The NDC didn’t include any targets on international aviation and shipping emissions but said it was “supportive” of action to tackle those emissions. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) had called on the Government to include those emissions.

With the new target of reaching 78% emissions reduction by 2035, the UK has now said that it will include international aviation and shipping emissions. The new target is in line with the CCC’s sixth carbon budget, which deals with emissions from 2033 to 2037. The target will be set into law by the end of June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs. We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”

Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC, said: “The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget is the product of the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of the path to a fully decarbonised economy. I am delighted that the Government has accepted my Committee’s recommendations in full.”

Meeting the new target

The Government said that it would meet the new target by investing in new green technologies whilst maintaining people’s freedom to choose on aspects such as diet. It notes that the commitment to the sixth carbon budget is based on the Government’s own analysis and does not follow each of the CCC’s specific recommendations. The CCC has recommended that meat and dairy consumption in the UK should fall about 35% by 2050.

The Government has already published some decarbonisation plans such as the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy and Energy White Paper. It also plans to publish additional strategies on reaching net zero ahead of COP26, including the Hydrogen Strategy and the Net Zero Strategy, and the Treasury will publish its Net Zero Review which will outline how the net zero transition can lead to economic growth.

However, according to The Financial Times, James Diggle, Head of Energy and Climate Change at the CBI, said that the “stop, start” nature of Government policies had “caused concern to business” when the Green Homes Grant – an initiative that had aimed to decarbonise homes by measures such as installing insulation and heat pumps – was scrapped earlier this year. The Government also recently cut grants aimed at encouraging people to buy electric cars.

Independent think tank Green Alliance also noted that the UK is not on track to meet the target of 68% reductions by 2030 based on current policies in its Net zero policy tracker: April 2021 update which was released on the same day as the Government announcement.

Nilay Shah FIChemE, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Vice-Chair of the National Engineering Policy Centre Net Zero working group, said: “The engineering community welcomes this ambitious and necessary target. However, the UK is still not on track to meet even its previous carbon targets, and this new goal of 78% emissions reduction by 2035 will not be reached without sweeping energy efficiency measures and ensuring that all Government policies actively and coherently contribute to achieving this target. In the run up to COP26, Government should publish a detailed and flexible plan for each high-carbon sector of the economy, and account for the connections between them and the social or behavioural basis for change using a systems approach. Engineers from every discipline will design, build, retrofit, operate and make safe the infrastructure and technologies for a decarbonised UK to be fully achieved, and we will play our part to build a net zero UK.”

Mark Apsey FIChemE, Chair of IChemE's Energy Community of Practice, said: "It is encouraging that the UK Government are taking the recommendations from the Climate Change Committee in setting the target for the UK’s sixth carbon budget and I’m pleased to see the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions. I look forward to seeing details of specific policies that will enable us to achieve these necessary goals if the UK is to play its part in helping to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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