UK to Enshrine Carbon Neutrality by 2050 in Ambitious National Law

Statement from Baroness Bryony Worthington, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund Europe

June 11, 2019
Jennifer Andreassen Burke, +1 (202) 288-4867,

(LONDON – 11 June, 2019)  The UK government will announce tomorrow it will seek to establish in national law a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Once adopted, the UK would be the first major industrialised economy to make carbon neutrality by 2050 part of a national legal framework for addressing climate change.

“This ambitious action is a sign of how committed the UK is to leading the world in responding to the global climate crisis, and to stepping up to take the necessary actions. As the first major industrialised country to legislate for a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK is demonstrating the leadership the world so urgently needs. Other countries can and must take steps to up their ambitions too.

“This is a big step forward for the UK, and for our shared global home. It won’t be easy. But one promising approach to help reach the target is a provision in the Climate Change Act that allows the government to introduce a whole economy cap-and-trade system and tradeable incentives. The government should commit to a public consultation so these powerful policy tools can be used to get us to our goals cost effectively.”



The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK adopt this ambitious new target – committing to net zero emissions in the UK by 2050 – based on recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The new target will update the Climate Change Act, which entered into law in 2008 with huge cross-party support, and created a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to a 1990 baseline. The Act allows changes to this target if significant changes arise in underlying assumptions.

Once the new target is enshrined in law, the country’s 5-year carbon budgets must then be set in line with meeting it. The new target would inform the next carbon budget, the sixth, which covers the period 2032-2037.

The Committee on Climate Change’s technical assessments made clear that the UK could meet this goal with minimal “cost” to GDP if policies were introduced urgently. The Climate Change Act requires the government to publish plans to meet the budgets, and has to report to parliament on progress. Part Three of the Act gives the Government powers to introduce comprehensive policies to limit emissions across the economy and create markets in cost effective zero emissions solutions. They have yet to be used as emissions have been falling this decade, however, emissions projections for the next decade show the UK is not on track to meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Before joining EDF Baroness Worthington previously launched the Friends of the Earth campaign that helped secure the Climate Change Act and was a leading member of the civil service team that drafted the Government Bill presented to Parliament in 2006.  

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