UK strengthens 2030 climate goals

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE UK Government has announced that it intends to cut emissions by 68% from 1990 levels by 2030, as part of its updated Paris Agreement pledge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – its pledge under the Paris Agreement – would aim to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 compared to levels in 1990. This will be the UK’s first NDC, as previously it was covered under the EU. The UK’s previous target under the EU’s NDC was 53% emissions cuts. However, the UK had had its own target under the 2008 Climate Change Act for a 57% reduction between 2028 and 2032 as part of the fifth carbon budget.

The Government announcement said that the new target is backed by the recently announced Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution. It also said that it intends to meet the target through domestic action and not through using international carbon credits. The NDC doesn’t take into account emissions from international aviation and shipping, but the Government is “supportive” of action to tackle those emissions.

Johnson said: “We have proven we can reduce our emissions and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process – uniting businesses, academics, NGOs and local communities in a common goal to go further and faster to tackle climate change. Today, we are taking the lead with an ambitious new target to reduce our emissions by 2030, faster than any major economy, with our Ten Point Plan helping us on our path to reach it.”

Alok Sharma, Business and Energy Secretary and COP26 President, said: “The UK’s new emissions target is among the highest in the world and reflects the urgency and scale of the challenge our planet faces. I hope other countries join us and raise the bar at next week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit, and ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year.”

The full NDC will be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before the Climate Action Summit, which is hosted by the UK, France, and the UN. The Summit will take place on 12 December to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. The summit calls on other Paris Agreement signatories to submit ambitious NDCs.

More commitment needed

The Climate Change Committee (CCC – formerly the Committee on Climate Change) had recommended the target of at least 68% emissions reductions. The CCC will publish its advice on the UK’s sixth carbon budget next week, where it will advise the Government on emissions targets for 2033–2037. The sixth carbon budget will be in line with the net zero by 2050 target.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC wrote to Alok Sharma prior to the announcement: “This trajectory for UK emissions is eminently achievable, provided effective policies are introduced across the economy without delay. These would bring significant benefits for the UK’s economic recovery.

“The NDC is more than just a number. It should be accompanied by wider climate commitments, including the development of a policy package and net zero strategy to deliver against the UK goal, clear commitments to reduce international aviation and shipping emissions, and greater support for climate finance, particularly for developing countries. It is also imperative that the NDC is accompanied by strengthened climate change adaptation plans – with new commitments – for the UK to show its leadership on emissions reduction and adaptation.”

Making it happen

Johnson’s announcement was generally welcomed, however there have been calls for further action on policy, carbon prices, and support for developing countries. There have also been comments that the emissions reductions target should be higher.

The Climate Coalition – a group of more than 140 organisations – said that the UK should be targeting 75% emissions reductions. Ed Matthew, COP26 Co-Director for the Climate Coalition, wrote that the target is technically feasible and that it would be a huge economic opportunity. He said that the UK has a greater obligation to reduce emissions as it is the seventh biggest emitter historically. “It has a clear moral duty to reduce emissions as fast as it possibly can and support others to do so. The poorest countries in the world have done the least to cause climate change but they are the ones who are likely to suffer the most.”

Steve Smith, of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said: “The next step is to make this happen. The Government’s recent 10-point plan needed a few more points adding to it in order to meet the previous aim for 2030, let alone to go further. Being ambitious isn’t just about owing the world for our decades of high emissions; it’s also about getting on with creating jobs, homes and habitats fit for our future.”

Mirabelle Muûls, Assistant Professor in Economics, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, said: “The UK is setting an ambitious new NDC, five years after the historic Paris Agreement, hopefully leading by example in preparation for COP26: we need global action for all countries to move fast enough towards limiting warming to well below 2oC. However, investment beyond that announced in the ten-point plan will be needed to achieve such a goal. Strong policies, and in particular a price on carbon, are needed to incentivise businesses and people to change, for the transition to be just and for private investment to follow.”

Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change and Priestley Centre Director, University of Leeds, said: “It’s a great target but other things need to be added to make it align with the ambition of the Paris Agreement. We need to see additional action on international aviation and shipping. We also need to support for developing countries that both enable them to decarbonise within 10 years of our own target, and to become resilient to the climate damage they continue to suffer as global warming continues.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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