The United Kingdom has announced plan to legislate a 78% greenhouse gas emissions target for 2035, putting the country in what one news report calls a “world-leading position”.
The “radical new climate commitments” would require “more electric cars, low-carbon heating, renewable electricity and, for many, cutting down on meat and dairy,” the BBC reports. “For the first time, climate law will be extended to cover international aviation and shipping.”
The new target was recommended by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the broadcaster states. It came just a couple of days before U.S. President Joe Biden hosts his virtual climate leaders’ summit tomorrow and Friday.
“We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies, and green innovation as we make progress to net-zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.”
The promise comes from the national government that is set to host a high-stakes United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in November, but recently refused to rescind local approval of a new underground coal mine and proved itself incapable of properly delivering a national home retrofit program. Last year, after she was “unceremoniously sacked” as COP 26 president, former UK cabinet minister Claire Perry O’Neill charged the Johnson government “couldn’t deliver a pizza, let alone COP 26”.
The BBC says the new commitment would “bring forward the [UK’s] current target for reducing carbon emissions by 15 years”. But the reaction matched general perceptions of Johnson’s climate performance so far, with the Labour opposition urging the government to match “rhetoric with reality” and treat “the climate emergency as the emergency it is”.
“At the moment, it’s…a bit of a Boris blunderbuss and is a huge range of marginal things instead of a concentration of effort on those things that will deliver the most emissions reductions in the fastest time,” said E3G Chair Tom Burke, in an interview with BBC’s Today show. Now, Johnson must “focus his policy around energy efficiency, around wind and solar, and around storage of electricity and the management of the grid,” he added.
“We’re not on track to meet previous climate commitments and in many ways the government is still failing,” agreed Leo Murray of the London-based climate charity Possible. He said UK cabinet ministers are “facing both directions at the same time” after scrapping the Green Homes Grant for insulating homes, failing to stop a new runway at Heathrow Airport, and “still pushing a £27-billion roads budget”.