The UK should adopt a legal net zero emission target this year on the back of an increasingly strong scientific, technological, legal and political argument, think tank Bright Blue has recommended.
In a new report, dubbed ‘Hotting Up’, Bright Blue has suggested that the UK lead the G7 economies by enshrining a net zero emissions target into law, an act which would bring the UK’s own “less ambitious” climate targets up to the level of the international goals subscribed to within the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The conservative think tank has said that the law could commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Climate Change Act 2008 and ensure that the government enables “deep decarbonisation” in the decades ahead.
It expects that government would consult with the Committee on Climate Change for an appropriate date to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, allowing for further decarbonisation from sectors where it is cheaper and more practical.
This follows an announcement made by Claire Perry, minister of state for energy and clean growth, back in April that the Committee on Climate Change would be asked to provide new advice on the implications of the 2015 Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, with a view to adopting a goal of having net zero carbon emissions.
This could, Bright Blue has added, be furthered by the UK government establishing an ‘international net zero alliance’ similar in fashion to the UK and Canada’s Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is encouraging other countries to phase out coal. Such a group would be distinct from, but complementary to, the Paris Agreement, and Bright Blue has gone as far as to suggest potential early-stage partners for the campaign in Norway and Sweden.
But in order to meet such a lofty target, Bright Blue has recommended that there be “limited flexibility” to use carbon permits.
Bright Blue has said the CCC would offer advice on the level of which UK carbon emissions could not feasibly be eliminated, essentially setting out how many carbon permits would be required to meet a net zero target. This limit would also be reviewed regularly given the “rapid pace of technological innovation”, the report said.
Sam Hall, head of research at Bright Blue and co-author of the report, said the UK government had an opportunity to lead on climate change initiatives by enacting a net zero emissions targets.
“Eliminating entirely the UK’s domestic emissions is essential for properly tackling climate change. At the same time, it could help increase the ambition of other countries’ climate targets and support new UK low-carbon industries that can export their products and services abroad. Indeed, this could be a key component of the UK Government’s post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ strategy,” he said.
The report has been welcomed by Perry, who said she was “hugely heartened” by the ongoing growth in the support of climate action.
“The UK was the first to bring in the landmark Climate Change Act 10 years ago and many other nations have since followed our lead. Having strong legal frameworks and long term targets has given government as well as industry the confidence to act for the long term and take bold decisions, and we understand the need to revisit and update these targets where appropriate.
“We also understand the key role of good science and independent expertise which is why we created the Committee on Climate Change to advise us and, as I recently announced, we will be seeking their advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets.”