You are here

UK's pledge for net zero fossil fuel pollution is a first for G-7 bloc

The radical move has won backing from across political spectrum even as Brexit saga drags on


BRITAIN is to become the first major economy to adopt laws that require a cut in fossil-fuel emissions to zero by 2050 to fight climate change.

Prime Minister Theresa May said legislation to wipe out the UK's net contribution to rising global temperatures will be put to Members of Parliament, endorsing a report from advisers that laid out what a carbon-neutral future would have to look like. The radical move recommended by the government's climate-change adviser has won backing from across the political spectrum even as debate about leaving the European Union roiled UK lawmakers.

Urgency is building around efforts to contain an increase in global temperatures. Mrs May's statement followed a report from the oil major BP Plc showing carbon emissions jumped the most in seven years in 2018, an indication the world is falling behind in its efforts to rein in the pollution damaging the atmosphere.

"Standing by is not an option," Mrs May said in a statement from her office in London on Tuesday evening. "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 UK has been one of the more successful countries in the world at cutting emissions and intends to stop burning coal for power generation by 2025. Britain has slashed carbon dioxide output 44 per cent since 1990 to the lowest levels since the 1890s, according to data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

A report from the independent Committee on Climate Change recommended wholesale changes to the way the UK generates, distributes and consumes power as well as ways the public can change their habits, including flying less and driving electric cars.

There is broad political support from the main opposition Labour and Scottish National parties as well as the Liberal Democrats. Britain already has a target to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, but the last fifth of that goal is likely to be the hardest reduction to make.

The move was welcomed by environmental campaigners, but they cautioned the government had left some room for manoeuvre in its plans, especially by allowing a mechanism for projects overseas to count towards Britain's target.

"This is a big moment for everyone in the climate movement," Greenpeace said in a statement. "While the loopholes being woven in by the Treasury will need to be unpicked, and the date moved forward, this decision fires the starting for a fundamental transformation of our economy."

Japan has also joined Britain in pledging to become carbon neutral later this century, but critics blasted Tokyo's plan as unambitious, as its policy only pledges to meet the goal sometime after the middle of the century.

The policy, adopted by the cabinet on Tuesday, is expected to be submitted to the United Nations before the country hosts the G-20 summit in Osaka later this month.

It sets "a carbon-neutral society as the final goal, and seeks to realise it at the earliest possible time in the latter half of this century". But while it says renewable energy - such as solar and wind - will become the mainstay of the country's energy use, it adds that coal-fired power plants will remain operational.

xClimate activists say Tokyo is moving too slowly and its continued use of coal undermines its objectives.

The plan "shows the Japanese government is not truly serious about mitigating climate change", said Hanna Hakko, senior energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

"You simply can't solve climate change while continuing to burn coal," she said. BLOOMBERG, AFP