Positive step forward for UK transition to net zero emissions

Published 2nd May 2019 by Rachel Hunter

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has today issued a report for Government recommending a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

The reports key findings are that:

  • The UK should commit to the “highest level of ambition” as called for by Article 4 of the Paris agreement and Government policy should be rapidly implemented to deliver net zero.


  • There are already some policies in place that contribute to the transition to net zero, but these need to be strengthened and/or implemented sooner (e.g. zero carbon vehicles by 2030 rather that the current 2040 target; fossil fuels phased out; use of land and farming transformed.).


  • All sectors of the economy will need to play a role – national Government, public bodies, organisations, businesses and individuals. Shipping and aviation sectors must be included in planning for the transition.


  • As sequestration of carbon will play a role in net zero, it’s important to note that there are no Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology projects in the UK (43 large scale demonstration projects globally)


  • Domestic tree planting will likely be a component of sequestrations needed to be net zero. The CCC assumes some sectors can’t decarbonise completely, requiring sequestration elsewhere.


  • Cost implications to UK economy are not significantly greater than those accepted as part of the existing Climate Change Act.


The main argument of the CCC is that a net-zero GHG target for 2050 is achievable with existing technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that is already outlined in the Climate Change Act. This means that clear, stable and well-designed policies are urgently requirement by the UK Government to reduce emissions further across the economy as the current policy is insufficient for meeting even the existing targets.

The CCC’s report follows several weeks of high-profile activity on climate change issues from Extinction Rebellion protestors and school students regularly taking to the streets to demand action to MPs debating in Parliament about whether the UK should officially declare a climate emergency, heightening the public consciousness of the threat posed by climate change.

Leading businesses have frequently engaged with Government on climate change issues and for companies addressing the impacts of climate change and responding to the risks and opportunities, this report will be welcome.

It is now up to the Government to respond with a robust and efficient plan to set these recommendations in motion.

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