Announcing a target to cut greenhouse gases by at least 100% below 1990 levels in 2050 is a necessary step to tackle the climate emergency. But it won’t be enough on its own
One of Theresa May’s most consequential decisions of her unhappy premiership is to set a legally binding target for the UK to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. If it were to be achieved, this would mark the end of Britain’s contribution to global warming, apart from the those emissions “exported” by buying products made abroad. It is undoubtedly a very good thing that her successor will not only be left with draft laws to enact, but also with raised public expectation that they do so.
Mrs May’s decision comes not a moment too soon. The influential BP review of worldwide energy use estimates that global CO2 emissions grew by 2% in 2018, the fastest growth for seven years. This country ought to reach net-zero emissions before the middle of the century. Clear policy direction is essential to change the way we produce, distribute and consume energy. The cleaning of the British economy can be traced back to the landmark decision by the European Union in 2007 to implement “20-20-20” green targets: reducing greenhouse gases by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020; for 20% of energy consumption to come from renewables; and 20% reduction in energy use. The impact has been dramatic.