Cooling towers at a coal-fired power station in Ratcliffe-on-Soar, UK
Nature Picture Library/Alamy
The UK government has pledged to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030, marking a significant bump in ambition from existing plans for a 53-57 per cent reduction.
The new goal comes 9 days ahead of the UK hosting a “climate action summit” to encourage other countries to declare tougher climate plans under the Paris Agreement, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Stronger plans are needed to close the gap between the catastrophic 3°C-plus temperature rises that global commitments have us on track for, and the Paris deal’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
“This is the most significant NDC announcement so far from any major economy,” said Richard Black at UK-based thinktank Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, in a statement.
The new target is exactly in line with what the government’s official climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), called for in a letter published earlier today. The group said 68 per cent would be “world-leading” compared to existing plans by governments.
The UK had previously promised a 53 per cent as part of a joint effort with the rest of the European Union, but Brexit has required the UK to produce a new NDC. Separately, in domestic legislation, the UK had also pledged a 57 per cent cut by 2032.
Today’s bolder new target was welcomed by environmental groups and businesses, including Greenpeace, WWF, Tesco, BT and energy firms.
Nonetheless, it is clear far more action will be needed if the UK is to get on a path that would meet the new ambition. The government’s own analysis last week showed that recent major policies, such as banning new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030, had failed to do enough to put the UK on track even for the old goal of 57 per cent by 2032. The new target widens that gap further.
The new plan does not cover shipping and aviation, despite the CCC today calling for the new NDC to “include clear commitments” to curb emissions from both sectors. It also only covers territorial emissions, so does not account for emissions from goods produced overseas bought by UK citizens.
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