U.K. Debates World-Leading Cuts in CO2 Emissions

Boris Johnson is mulling stricter U.K. greenhouse-gas cuts of as much as 69% by 2030, which would make it one of the most ambitious developed nations in the world when it comes to fighting climate change.

A final decision hasn’t been taken, and targets in the range of 65% to 68% reductions from 1990 levels are also being considered, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the policy has yet to be finalized.

A target of that magnitude would put the U.K. at the vanguard of global efforts to fight climate change, eclipsing the 55% reduction over the same period envisaged in the European Union’s Green Deal. It will also mark a key waypoint in the country’s plan to eliminate net emissions altogether by 2050 as part of efforts to contain global warming to at least 2 degrees Celsius.

An announcement is planned before Dec. 12, when Johnson is scheduled to co-host a United Nations event at which other countries may announce their more ambitious pledges on slashing carbon dioxide, the person said.

“We’re looking at our nationally-determined contribution which will be extremely ambitious and will be published around the time of the climate summit on Dec. 12 this year,” Johnson said in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

U.K. Debates World-Leading Cuts in CO2 Emissions

In recent months, major emitters including China and Japan have followed the U.K. in setting long-term goals to zero out greenhouse gases. Those new targets will put the world on course to limit global warming to 2.1 degrees Celsius, according to Climate Action Tracker. But mid-term goals are also required under the terms of the Paris Agreement to ensure countries stay on track and to provide signals to businesses on where to invest.

Environmental campaigners at Greenpeace have called for a target as tough as 75% by 2030 that includes international aviation and shipping and doesn’t rely on the use of carbon credits, where polluters offset their own emissions by funding clean-energy projects elsewhere.

Adair Turner, chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission research group, said that in order to have “a really credible and strong commitment,” the U.K.’s new goal should be in the range of 65% to 70%. Alongside that figure the U.K. should also commit to almost fully decarbonize its electricity system by 2035.

“We’ve actually got to get emissions down a lot in the 2020s themselves, because what matters is the stock in the atmosphere” of greenhouse gases, he said.

Glasgow Calling

As host of the next round of global climate change talks that take place in Glasgow next year, Johnson has been seeking to burnish his environmental credentials. Last month he unveiled a 10-point plan to boost green industries that included banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030. The blueprint also included funding for hydrogen and carbon capture and storage technology and plans to expand offshore wind power.

The new 2030 target will be based on advice from the independent Climate Change Committee which is slated to be published next week, tracking the U.K.’s progress to meeting its environmental long-term goals. Its most recent figures found the U.K. to be off track to meeting the net zero goal and is “unprepared for the worst impacts of climate change.”

The new 2030 target would replace an existing U.K. goal to reduce emissions by 57% in the period between 2028 and 2032. That goal was set in 2016 but to deliver on a 2050 goal to cut emissions by just 80% by mid century. Since then, the U.K. became one of the world’s first countries to set a binding net zero goal for 2050, meaning it now needs a tougher mid-term goal.

Johnson also wants to use green policies in a bid to boost relations with U.S. President Elect Joe Biden, who has made climate change a key pillar of his campaign, reversing President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement.

Amber Rudd, a former secretary of state for energy and climate change in Johnson’s Conservative Party, said setting the new target was complicated by Brexit. That’s because the U.K. is due to leave the EU’s Emissions Trading System on Dec. 31, through which big emitters like steel makers, pay for their pollution.

“As we leave the European Union, what is going to happen to the ETS and our involvement in it, is there going to be a replacement, how will it work? I think that’s going to be just as critical,” she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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