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Two weeks after outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she was introducing legislation to enshrine into law a net zero emissions by 2050 target, the country's interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth has signed the target into law, making the UK the first major global economy to pass such a law. 

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UK Signs Net-Zero Emissions Requirement Into Law

Two weeks after outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she was introducing legislation to enshrine into law a net zero emissions by 2050 target, the country’s interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth has signed the target into law, making the UK the first major global economy to pass such a law. 

Two weeks after outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she was introducing legislation to enshrine into law a net zero emissions by 2050 target, the country’s interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth has signed the target into law, making the UK the first major global economy to pass such a law.

Night time traffic in London

Image Credit: Shutterstock

As she shambles towards the doors of 10 Downing Street, outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been looking for a way to cement her legacy as something other than a complete failure to handle the country’s much-ballyhooed “Brexit.” Announced earlier this month, Prime Minister May introduced a statutory instrument (SI) in Parliament to amend the country’s Climate Change Act of 2008 to enter into law a commitment to “eradicate” the UK’s “contribution to climate change by 2050.”

“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,” said Prime Minister Theresa May. “Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.

“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.”

Fast forward two weeks, and as G20 nations meet in Tokyo for their annual summit, the UK’s interim Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore, signed the SI amending the Climate Change Act. The new target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, an increase on its previous target of at least 80% reduction on 1990 levels by the same year.

Chris Skidmore signs legislation to commit the UK to a legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050
Image Credit: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

“The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” explained Skidmore. “Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.”

The UK has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% while at the same time growing its economy by 72% — highlighting once again the continued divorce between emissions and economic growth, which had long been thought to be intimately and intrinsically tied together. The country has also enshrined its climate goals as part of its modern Industrial Strategy which it hopes will increase the number of “green collar jobs” to 2 million and the value of exports from the country’s low-carbon economy to £170 billion a year by 2030.

The newly-enshrined net zero target was first recommended by the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change, its independent climate advisory body which has been advising the government through reports and public comments to get its act together.

“I am delighted that the 2050 net zero target has passed into UK law,” said Lord Deben, the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. “Delivering net zero will require major commitment over the coming decades, but will bring significant benefits too. This is a positive first step, and sends a strong signal that the UK is ready to lead the global effort to tackle climate change. The UK must now deliver on its ambition with credible policies to drive action.

“My message to the Government is simple: Now do it.”

 
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