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New net zero by 2050 UK climate target recommended with costs fairly shared


The UK Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has issued fresh advice on national greenhouse gas emission targets, recommending a new target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

This report is the CCC’s response to a request from the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments in the light of the International Panel on Climate Change’s report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C compared with 2C. The UK Government’s business and climate change department has welcomed the report, saying: “We are not immediately accepting the recommendations set out in the Committee on Climate Change’s detailed report but will be responding in due course to ensure the UK continues to be a world leader in tackling climate change.”

The CCC says that the foundations are in place, but “must be urgently strengthened” while policies need to “ramp up significantly” for credibility. Policies highlighted include: low-carbon electricity supply; energy efficient buildings and low-carbon heating; carbon capture & storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen, ending biodegradable waste to landfill and fluorinated gases, planting more trees, and agricultural emissions reductions. It also calls for immediate “clear, stable and well-designed policies” across sectors, and says that “Government must set the direction and provide the urgency” while the “public will need to be engaged if the transition is to succeed.”

The CCC’s report finds that the costs of achieving net-zero 2050 are “manageable” at 1-2% of GDP, but that the “costs of the transition must be fair, and must be perceived as such by workers and energy bill payers.” It also highlights the co-benefits of climate action, including health (cleaner air), noise (quieter vehicles), active travel (cycling & walking), diets, recreational benefits from land use changes, as well as “an industrial boost” as UK “leads the way in low-carbon products and services including electric vehicles, finance and engineering, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen technologies with potential benefits for exports, productivity and jobs”.

The report says that setting a legal net-zero greenhouse gas target for the UK before 2050 “does not currently appear credible”, and “advises against it at this time.”

On cities, the CCC report acknowledges “the importance of policies made outside of Westminster”, such as housing, transport and the natural environment “in each area of the UK”, and at local level walking and cycling and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, ensuring new housing is for access to public transport, improving health through clean-air zones. The report notes that: “Cities and local authorities are well placed to understand the needs and opportunities in their local area, although there are questions over well they have sufficient resources to contribute strongly to reducing emissions.”

Moving from reducing emissions by 80% to net zero by 2050 represents a significant national shift, especially for those parts of the country that do not already have similar targets in place.

If endorsed, these recommendations would bring the UK into line with the 2050 target that Bristol adopted at the Paris climate talks during the city’s year as European Green Capital 2015, and as a city we can share learnings over the 3 years since with other cities and placed to help them address the climate emergency.

The elected members of Bristol City Council were the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency and accelerate the city’s carbon neutral ambition. Other UK cities have done similarly, while in Parliament, the House of Commons followed suit on 1 May. University of Bristol became the first UK university to declare a climate emergency last month, highlighting the important role that Bristol Green Capital Partnership and its members has to play in achieving an environmentally sustainable city.

The Mayor of Bristol is due to report back to Bristol City Council on the climate emergency motion on 16 July. The Partnership contributed to this through a major gathering event on accelerating progress on carbon emissions (report link below), with participants offering almost 600 immediate and future actions.

The Partnership is also creating and facilitating a new Environmental Sustainability Board to help lead the delivery of a carbon neutral Bristol and the wider environmental sustainability of the cit. An open ‘expression of interest’ process for Board members has launched, with its first meeting scheduled for 10 July.

Looking ahead, the Partnership will also build on our experience in 2018 to encourage Partnership member businesses and other organisations to hold events and engage with Green Great Britain Week 2019, running from 4 to 8 November – let us know if you are interested at

Further information

UK Committee on Climate Change net zero press release, report, infographic & technical report

BBC net zero news piece (2 May), Commons climate emergency motion news piece (1 May), ‘What is a climate emergency’ page (1 May)

Edie net zero news piece, reactions news piece and What is ‘a climate emergency’? news piece

Partnership news piece on Bristol’s climate emergency motion

Partnership news piece on report of accelerating carbon neutral city gathering event

Partnership news piece on Environmental Sustainability Bard open ‘expressions of interest’ call

Partnership news piece on Bristol’s Green GB Week 2018

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