UK government unveils world-leading climate target

20th April 2021

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Sharon Maguire-Salmon

The UK government has today unveiled plans to cut the country's CO2 emissions by 78% by 2035, which it described as the "world's most ambitious climate change target."

This is an increase from the current 68% reduction target for 2030 – based on 1990 levels – and will take the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

The sixth carbon budget for limiting emissions between 2033 to 2037 will also incorporate international aviation and shipping emissions for the first time, following advice from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The new target is set to be enshrined in law by the end of June 2021, with the announcement coming as prime minister Boris Johnson prepares to address the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate this Thursday.

“We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world,” he said.

“The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net-zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.

“We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”

Prior to enshrining its net-zero commitment in law, the UK had a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. Today’s sixth carbon budget announcement aims to achieve almost the same level 15 years earlier.

The government explained how the country has already over-achieved against its first and second carbon budgets, and is on track to outperform the third budget, which ends in 2022.

This is due to significant cuts in greenhouse gases across the economy and industry, with the UK bringing emissions down 44% overall between 1990 and 2019, and reducing them by two-thirds in the power sector.

“By accepting the CCC’s recommendations for the sixth carbon budget, the government has sent out a resounding message, domestically and internationally, that the UK is taking its net-zero emissions target seriously,” said Shaun Spiers, executive director of the Green Alliance.

“The inclusion of international aviation and shipping is particularly important, showing climate leadership in the year we are hosting the Glasgow climate summit.

“What we need now is to ensure there is no gap between ambition and policy, so the UK has the right tools in its armoury to meet these targets.”

Image credit: iStock


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