By 2050 the UK will be producing ‘net zero’ carbon emissions, outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
The legislation is the first of any G7 country to commit to reaching net zero emissions and would see the UK end its contribution towards climate change within 31 years.
A target to cut emissions by 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 is already in place but will now be replaced with the new more ambitious target.
A review of the legislation will take place in 5 years to ensure that other countries are following suit.
Specific plans to achieve the target haven’t been laid out but would mean wholesale changes being made to homes, businesses and transport.
Praise has been given for the strict target but disappointment has been expressed that the target can be achieved through carbon credits.
In her statement, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “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.
“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.”
What does ‘net zero’ mean?
Simply put, a net zero emissions target means having a carbon neutral footprint, so the UK’s carbon emissions would be balanced out by carbon savings.
Achieving the target would mean that the total human output of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is the same or lower than the emissions being removed. This can be done by planting carbon forests, reducing deforestation and using carbon capture technology.
What are carbon credits?
A carbon credit allows the holder, in this case the UK, to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while making cuts elsewhere.
Greenpeace believe that the UK using carbon credits to achieve the new target would “shift the burden to developing nations”.