UK Should Reach Net Zero Emissions by 2050, Climate Change Advisory Body Says

Image: Jess Nyman, Twitter

Today, the UK’s chief advisory body on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published its highly anticipated report on net zero to the government. The CCC recommends that the UK legislate to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 

Other top lines recommendations from the report include:  

  • Scotland should target net zero by 2045 because of “Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole” through methods like afforestation and restoring peatlands
  • Wales should aim for 95 percent reductions by 2050, due to the size of its sheep farming industry 
  • This net zero goal should include industries like aviation and shipping, and should not include international emissions credits
  • The net-zero target requires an economy-wide overhaul, but the costs of doing so would be modest, resulting in GDP being just 1 to 2 percent lower in 2050 than it would be otherwise
  • Electric vehicles will be cost saving by 2030, so ending the sale of new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030 would be cheaper for the economy as a whole
  • Coal should be phased out completely in the 2020s, with renewables taking a bigger share of power generation


Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to accept this recommendation, and the government is likely to prepare legislation based on the 2008 Climate Change Act. Just yesterday, the UK Parliament approved a motion to declare an ‘environment and climate emergency.’ The Welsh and Scottish governments have recently done the same after a massive wave of protests brought London to a standstill in April. 

The same day the recommendation was released, Scotland confirmed it will legislate based on the Committee’s recommendations, with the goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2045.

Related: See which other countries, cities, states, regions and businesses have set net zero targets

Reactions to the CCC recommendations:  

This is a hugely important piece of advice from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change. Not only does it make clear that targeting net zero emissions by mid-century is critical to achieving the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C, it shows that such a target is both feasible and desirable. 

The challenge should not be underestimated and the CCC makes clear that every sector of the economy will have to play its part. While there will be near term costs, there are clearly considerable economic opportunities – and the costs of inaction will be far greater. Indeed, the Bank of England governor Mark Carney recently warned that climate change represented an existential threat to the global financial system. 

The UK has cut emissions faster than any other G7 nation at the same time it has grown the economy. Today’s advice represents the next phase in the country’s global climate leadership and I look forward to seeing many other countries in Europe, and beyond, following suit. Through the school strikes for climate, the world’s youth are telling us there is no time to waste. Every country should heed that warning. 

-Laurence Tubiana, Convener of the 2050 Pathways Platform and CEO, European Climate Foundation 

It’s time for all countries to re-set the GPS towards net zero. Setting net zero targets and striving to achieve them as early as possible, and definitely by 2050, is necessary, desirable and achievable.  

In fact, we have no other option if we are to survive and prosper. Costa Rica has already laid out its plans, and it’s encouraging to see this move from the UK. The rest of the EU and the rest of the world can follow their lead. 

-Christiana Figueres, former UNFCCC Executive Secretary and Convener, Mission2020  

The Elders welcome the recommendations of the UK’s Climate Change Committee. Committing the UK to become carbon neutral by 2050 will send a clear message to other G20 nations and beyond that the UK is truly a leader on climate action. Such a decision, should the UK Government take it, will be unprecedented and will put pressure on other nations to do the same. The scale and urgency of the climate challenge we face needs this kind of ambitious leadership – it would mark a significant political moment in efforts to keep global temperatures in line with a 1.5C rise.

-Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General and Deputy Chair of The Elders

Now is the time to respond the rise in climate activism demonstrated this month in the UK, with urgency. Business must go further and faster in the global transition to zero-carbon economies with clear, ambitious government policies. I urge the UK Government to adopt the advice given by their Climate Change Committee, and commit the nation to reach economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050, delivering tremendous social benefits alongside economic growth and leading the way for other countries to follow.

-Paul Polman, Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), CEO Unilever 2009-2018 

As a business with significant operations in Great Britain we’re already investing in the transition to a low carbon future. We have reduced the carbon impact of our core operations by 62% since 2010 but we know there is much more to do across all of society. A clear sense of direction from the Government’s policies on climate change is vital to allow everyone in business to plan for a zero-carbon future. That’s why we are delighted that the Government has today announced that it will bring forward a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in Great Britain by 2050 at the latest.

-Nick Brown, Head of Sustainability, Coca-Cola European Partners, Great Britain

The cost of our carbon economy is too high – too high on bills, our environment and our health. We strongly welcome the CCC’s recommendation that UK should set a net-zero emissions target by 2050. At ScottishPower, we have long recognised that our sector has a critical role to play. That’s why we generate 100% green energy, but if we are to deliver the recommended quadrupling of renewable electricity generation by 2050, we must be able to keep investing record amounts to deliver clean energy in the most cost-effective way, through offshore and onshore wind.

-Keith Anderson, CEO, ScottishPower



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