UK sets target to slash emissions by 78% before Biden’s summit


Hours ahead of Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden on Earth Day, the UK government announced to set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

For the first time, UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions, bringing more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.

In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, this sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a five-year period from 2033 to 2037.

According to the UK government, the Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2oC and pursue efforts towards 1.5oC.

Enshrining the new target in law to slash emissions was announced on Tuesday.

Prime Minister 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.

“We want 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 government is already working towards its commitment to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68 per cent compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution — the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date.

Today’s world-leading announcement builds on this goal to achieve a 78 per cent reduction by 2035.

The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021.

Prior to enshrining its net zero commitment in law, the UK had a target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 — through Tuesday’s sixth Carbon Budget announcement, the government is aiming to achieve almost the same level 15 years earlier.

Through its presidency of the crucial UN climate summit, COP26, which will take place in Glasgow later this year, the UK is urging countries and companies around the world to join the UK in delivering net zero globally by the middle of the century and set ambitious targets for cutting emissions by 2030.

COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma, said: “This hugely positive step forward for the UK sets a gold standard for ambitious Paris-aligned action that I urge others to keep pace with ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

“We must collectively keep 1.5 degrees of warming in reach and the next decade is the most critical period for us to change the perilous course we are currently on.”

On Earth Day (April 22), US President Biden will convene 40 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representing countries that contribute the vast majority of carbon emissions, as well as some most vulnerable to climate impacts, for a two-day Leaders Summit on Climate.

The summit is expected to deliver firmer commitments for climate action this decade and will be the foundation upon which countries step up ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, both on climate targets and on finance, climate diplomats told IANS.

Further, the level of ambition on Nationally Determined Contribution and climate finance that the US delivers around the summit will determine how credibly it will re-enter the global climate stage, say a diplomat.

What to expect from the summit?

The summit, say experts, is being billed as a moment to revitalize climate ambition ahead of COP26 and keep the hope of 1.5 degrees alive.

Summit discussions themselves will focus on the scale and urgency of the climate problem, the gap of required action and finance, the role of technology and innovation, the opportunity of climate action for job creation, and the benefits of a “race to the top.”

Japan, the US, and Canada are expected to deliver their new 2030 climate targets at or before the summit.

South Korea is rumoured to be considering coal finance phase-out announcements, and Indonesia is rumored to announce a net-zero target.

And there is speculation that the US, the UK, and Brazil might reach a deal on financial support to curb Amazon deforestation to be announced at the summit.

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