Last month the UK became the first industrialised nation to enshrine a Net Zero target into law, setting 2050 as the deadline for achieving it. Enacting the legislation is an important first step, but there are many more in front of us. In a report published today by the UK Committee on Climate Change, the next 18 months are highlighted as critical for moving the country from talking into acting. Lord Deben, CCC Chairman, said: “It’s time for the Government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously. Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, requires real action by Government now.”
This same urgency has already been highlighted on the international stage. According to Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, UN Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, “We need concrete, realistic plans by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.”
It’s time to take full responsibility for our emissions
To achieve Net Zero, we must achieve an annual emissions reduction rate which is 30% higher than that seen since 1990, when the UK benefitted from the movement away from coal. Whilst reducing energy consumption and making other quick win changes are important, they alone are not sufficient. If we are going to make progress towards Net Zero, we must start by ensuring that everyone takes responsibility for their full emissions sooner rather than later.
An economy wide carbon price will ensure polluters pay
Government must make progress on putting the appropriate policies and frameworks in place, to ensure that individuals and businesses are paying for their impact in a fair and equitable manner. An important step is to establish an economy wide price on carbon and ensure that this is enacted as soon as possible. The target price must recognise the need for the UK to contribute to emission reduction projects both at home and abroad. These projects will not only deliver verified emission reductions which will offset today’s emissions, they can also provide additional positive impacts in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This would help stimulate UK-based projects such as domestic sequestration through tree planting and woodland creation which can not only aid the climate and biodiversity but can go even further to help tackle ongoing climate-related environmental issues such as flood management.
Government is critical to ensuring we move at pace
While there is much corporates, organisations and individuals can and should do to take responsibility for their emissions, government leadership is required to ensure we move at pace in the coming months. They need to set a strong policy environment with a clear direction of travel and plans to incentivise, enable and catalyse change at the speed required to put Net Zero within reach.