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UK commits to net zero emissions target by 2050

12/06/2019
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A new government climate change plan has set a target for the UK to reduce carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050.

The UK is relying on other countries matching their target of net zero emissions by 2050
(Image via Pixabay)

The UK is the first major nation to commit to this target, with the government hoping it will drive other countries to join them.

The Committee on Climate Change - who recommended the target in May - say that if other countries were to follow this example, then there would be a 50-50 chance of keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5℃ by 2100 - the threshold considered dangerous.

“This is a historic commitment that will reverberate right around the world,” said Laurence Tubiana, an architect of the Paris climate agreement.

“All eyes will now turn on the rest of the EU to match this pledge.”

But can it actually be done?

Though household emissions have already fallen significantly since 1990, the changes would have to be severe to meet the government's net zero target by 2050
(Image via BBC)

Currently the UK isn’t even on track to meet its previous target, set under the Climate Change Act 2008, of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. With the new, more ambitious goal there will have to be significant changes made to homes, transport, farming and industry.

The government claim that they intend to make the changes as painless as possible. So British citizens - for now - don’t have to worry about restrictions on air travel or meat consumption. 

The technological changes will involve replacing gas heating with other forms - such as hydrogen - increasing the number of electric cars on the road and replacing traditional lights with LEDs. 

Massive increases in clean energy generation and carbon capture will also be required. 

According to Chancellor Philip Hammond, the potential cost could reach £1 trillion - which would have to be taken from other public funds including potentially schools, hospitals and police. 

Though acting energy minister Chris Skidmore claims that the costs would only amount to 1-2% of the UK’s GDP, highlighting the ongoing reduction in costs of green technologies. He also added that the green economy would generate jobs.

Another option for the UK to reduce it’s net emissions is through “international carbon credits” which allow the UK to pay to offset its emissions through other areas of the world. However, with Greenpeace scientists saying this would “undermine the commitment”, the acting energy minister has stressed that this will not be the primary solution to meet the target.

Even if the UK were able to achieve the extremely ambitious target without making dramatic changes to the way of life of its citizens, it still needs other countries to make the same commitment to keep global temperatures from rising above the threshold. 

The government will be looking initially for similar commitments from EU countries, but many others - such as Donald Trump’s USA - will be a harder sell.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the target will be reviewed again in five years to see whether other nations will be taking similar actions. With a new figure in number 10, it will also have to be seen whether the UK will remain committed.

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Recent Comments
Just a fair comment from a qualified MSME+MBA Engineer: Carbon-Zero is a GIMMICK to capture Enviro-Fanatics' VOTES. Electric CARS would require HUGE NUCLEAR-plants to produce. Solar Panels is mud-covered, and windmills are slicing our birds. Offshore 10 MW wind-towers, miles and miles sub sea-power cables?? Anything US and Europe does, besides RUINING their ECONOMY for the *dream* of GREEN-Life, is only 20% Max effect on our World, and would be WIPED-OUT bu INDIA and CHINA, who has only COAL and Fossil Fuels. Go for it, it is a dreamers and politicians call. As an Oil&Gas engineer, I love my oil-business to last.
ANDRE GURSES, 12 June 2019
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UK commits to net zero emissions target by 2050 - Time to read 3 min
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