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Net zero legislation becomes law in landmark moment for green economy

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The UK has today passed a legally binding net zero emissions target into law, becoming the world’s first major economy to do so.

After passing through the House of Lords without challenge, this morning Chris Skidmore, stand-in energy and clean growth minister, signed legislation committing the UK to eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The signing of the legislation into law - a landmark moment for the country’s green economy - comes just weeks after the Committee on Climate Change published its recommendation of setting such a target.

It poses a significant upgrade in ambition on the precious 2050 emissions reduction target of 80% compared to 1990 levels, and will now require an unprecedented portfolio of policies to stimulate further decarbonisation across all sectors of the economy.

Today the government was keen to stress the economic opportunity the target posed, stating that so-called ‘green collar jobs’ could grow by 2 million and the value of low carbon exports soar to £170 billion by 2030.

“The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” Skidmore said.

“Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy - putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.”

But the legislation was not without its critics. Tabling a regret motion yesterday afternoon in the House of Lords, Lord Grantchester picked fault with the government’s legislation over how “little detail” surrounding precisely how the target would be met was included within it. “The text of the amendment lays bare that the government are not doing it properly,” Lord Grantchester said, before adding that the secretary of state had “not made adequate statements” about the government’s decision.

In particular Lord Grantchester singled out the energy sector and the built environment, arguing that the government needed to “unblock the hurdles” onshore wind is currently facing and focus on low carbon housing.

“That there is so much to propose and debate underlines the government’s lack of policy proposals. The forthcoming energy White Paper gives the Minister the opportunity to answer these challenges and include the Government’s plans, with milestones, to achieve a minimum of net zero by 2050,” he said.

Antony Skinner, renewables partner at law firm Ashurst, said that an acceleration in the debate surrounding the energy transition had seen it become a question of “how and when”, but echoed similar warnings those issued by the Committee on Climate Change in stressing the need for the government to follow this up with the requisite policy movement.

“it is crucial that the UK government now lays down the groundwork to reach the net carbon target in 30 years – and this means working closely with the different industry sectors so that we have a stable and realistic roadmap and supporting regulatory regime towards net zero carbon,” Skinner said.

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