Yesterday the Committee on Climate Change, a statutory body set up to advise the Government on emission reduction targets, published its seminal “net zero” report. It recommends that the Government set a new emissions target for the UK – to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
If adopted, a net zero target would demand a transformational change in our energy use, our land use, the way we eat, the way we heat and the way we get from A to B. But, the report says, ending our contribution to global warming in 30 years is necessary, achievable and cost-effective.
If there is one issue that is bigger than Brexit, this is it. And if there is one issue that needs concerted cross party consensus and public backing, this is it.
Whisper it, but it looks like Parliament has it eyes open to the scale of the challenge and is prepared to act. On Wednesday, the Commons backed a Labour motion to declare a climate emergency, becoming the first in the world to do so, and called on Government to legislate for net zero. On the same day the Chancellor and Environment Secretary met businesses to discuss how Government can build sustainability into the heart of their economic model.
With this level of cross party and departmental support, the weight of scientific evidence and Extinction Rebels behind them, the Government will back a net zero target in the coming months. The only question is when. If the UK wants to be the first major economy to commit to net zero then they need to move fast. France is due to legislate for net zero in July so this suggests getting a bill through before Summer Recess. Nothing like a bit of Anglo-French rivalry to sharpen the mind.
Interestingly, Conservative MP and net zero campaigner Simon Clarke has said that the all-consuming nature of Brexit means that there is a lot of free legislative time in the Commons to make a net zero target happen in the timeframe required. MPs are also desperate to be defined by anything other than Brexit.
But setting the target is the easy bit. Getting political and public buy-in for the policy changes required to deliver on this ambition will be the hard part. How can policy makers translate what will be a world-leading target into action to radically transform almost everything we do within three decades?
To hear from the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben himself, and a panel of experts discussing this very subject, join us for our timely panel event on “Achieving Net Zero Emissions: How to avoid a zero-sum game” to discuss the implications for business. RSVP here.