The UK government is set to enshrine into law what it says is the world's most ambitious target to tackle climate change as it aims by 2035 to slash its carbon emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels.
The bold new timetable is 15 years ahead of the previous target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 and will require a fundamental restructuring in the way the UK powers its homes, cars and factories, how it feeds its people and what it does to dispose of carbon dioxide.
The government has followed the recommendations of its independent climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which was contained in the committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, covering 2033 to 2037.
The new target will be enshrined into law by the end of June, with legislation setting out the commitments due to be laid before Parliament on 21 April.
'Setting the most ambitious target'
This announcement also comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the opening session of a climate change summit to be hosted in Washington DC by US President Joe Biden on 22 April.
Johnson said: “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.
“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."
Johnson said he wants "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".
The UK is set to host the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference — otherwise known as COP26 — in Glasgow in November.
Going 'further and faster'
UK Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and today’s announcement means our low carbon future is now in sight.
"The targets we’ve set ourselves in the Sixth Carbon Budget will see us go further and faster than any other major economy to achieve a completely carbon neutral future.”
The UK in 2019 set a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which called on countries to take steps to keep the global temperature rise as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.
Aviation and shipping emissions
Johnson has pitched the shift to a greener economy as part of the UK's recovery, including helping polluting industries to decarbonise.
For the first time, the target will also include the UK's share of international aviation and shipping emissions.
CCC chief executive Chris Stark said: "Setting the UK's Sixth Carbon Budget in law is a huge moment.
"Until 2019, the UK's 2050 target was an 80% reduction. It has effectively been brought forward by 15 years."
The UK recently agreed a landmark North Sea Transition Deal to support the oil and gas industry’s transition to cleaner energy while supporting jobs.
The sector has committed to cut its operational emissions by 50% by 2030.