UK commits to net-zero emissions by 2050

27 June 2019

The UK has today become the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signing the legislation (Image: BEIS)

This comes after legislation was passed in the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, last night and the House of Commons, the lower house, on 24 June. Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signed the order paper today, meaning the law is now in force.

The target will require the UK to bring all its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. The country has already reduced emissions by 42% while growing the economy by 72%.

The government has put clean growth at the heart of its modern Industrial Strategy, BEIS said, which could see the number of 'green-collar jobs' increase to two million and the value of exports from the low-carbon economy rise to GBP170 billion (USD216 billion) a year by 2030.

Skidmore said: "The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions. 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."

The UK’s 2050 net-zero target was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK's independent climate advisory body. Net-zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said the government's commitment to meet net-zero emissions by 2050 is "undoubtedly positive news".

"For decades, nuclear has consistently provided reliable, large-scale, low-carbon energy and will play an integral role in achieving net-zero," he said. "That is why it is essential the government gives the necessary support to ensure our ageing nuclear fleet is replaced. Building new nuclear plant will not only provide the low-carbon power we need, but will continue to provide thousands of jobs up and down the country.”

National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network in England and Wales, has forecast that, in 2019, more of Britain's power will be generated from zero-carbon sources than from fossil fuels for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. It said last week that coal had accounted for 2.5% of electricity generation in January to May this year, down from 30.4% in 2009 as a whole. This compared with 47.9% from nuclear, wind, solar and hydro power, which is up from 22.3% for the whole of 2009. However, coal and gas together covered 46.7% in the first five months of this year and 75.6% in 2009.

The government is hosting Green GB Week on 4 November "to encourage all corners of the country and sectors of society to play their part in meeting these ambitious targets", BEIS said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News