LONDON (AFP) - Britain insisted yesterday it can meet a new commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than two-thirds this decade compared to 1990 levels, the fastest reduction target of any major economy.
The government announced the aim late Thursday to reduce UK emissions by at least 68 percent by 2030, as part of legally-binding plans for the country to become carbon neutral by 2050.
It comes as Britain prepares to co-host a December 12 Climate Ambition Summit and stage COP26, the annual United Nations annual climate gathering, in Glasgow next November.
“We can do green growth,” Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma told BBC radio Friday, claiming the UK economy had grown 75 percent over the last three decades while emissions had been nearly halved. Prime Minister Johnson last month unveiled plans for “a green industrial revolution” to achieve the goal, which he has boasted will also create and support 250,000 jobs.
It includes banning sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles, quadrupling offshore wind power and scaling up hydrogen production capacity.
Sharma, the COP26 president, added in a statement that the new 2030 target “reflects the urgency and scale of the challenge our planet faces”.
“I hope other countries join us and raise the bar at next week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit, and ahead of the COP26,” he said.
In a video message on Twitter, Johnson acknowledged reaching the goal “won’t be easy” but said that it would “set us on course to hit net zero by 2050”.
“We’re going to challenge world leaders not only to match our ambition but to set out exactly how they plan to do so,” he added.
The 2015 Paris climate accord commits signatories to take action to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and try to limit them to 1.5C. Each signatory submitted plans committing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, known as their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
Britain’s new 2030 target is its first NDC projection as an independent country since leaving the European Union in January this year.
When it was part of the EU, Brussels’ NDC for the entire bloc was to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030, although London set its sights on a 53-percent cut while still a member.
The main opposition Labour party said there is “a yawning gap” between the Johnson government’s aspirations and its policies to deliver them.
“The government didn’t have the policies to meet their previous target and the chasm will be even greater now,” said Ed Miliband, Labour’s business and energy spokesman.
A watchdog report released Friday backed up Labour’s criticism, noting government departments were “yet to put in place all the essential components” to meet the challenge.
“Government also needs to spearhead a concerted national effort to achieve the ambitious outcome of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” the National Audit Office said.
Environmental campaigners also gave the 2030 aim a mixed reception, while several business groups in Britain endorsed it.
“This is important progress but not sufficient,” said Ed Matthew, of The Climate Coalition, an umbrella group of more than 140 organisations urging action against global warming.
“A more ambitious cut is both feasible and necessary to keep us safe and reflect our massive historic carbon emissions,” he added.
But Roy Bedlow, head of renewable investor Low Carbon, called the decarbonisation target “ambitious but achievable”.
“The UK is a world-leader in delivering renewable energy projects at scale and we have now have legally binding targets to match,” he said.