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Rapid action needed to achieve net zero emissions target, campaigners warn

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

The Government has been urged to bring forward concrete plans for ending greenhouse gas emissions after the "net zero" target passed into law.

The new goal will require a 100% reduction in emissions by 2050, with any remaining pollution "offset" by measures such as planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners, but there are warnings rapid action is now needed to ensure the target is met - with the UK already off-track to meet interim carbon cutting goals in the 2020s and 2030s.

Daisy-Rose Srblin, Christian Aid's UK advocacy adviser, said: "The Government passing a UK net zero emissions target puts the UK in the front group of countries upping their response to the latest scientific warnings about climate breakdown.

"While we think the UK can achieve this goal before 2050, the most important thing will be the Government bringing forward concrete plans for rapid and radical decarbonisation of the economy.

"Setting the target is easy, the question is what will the Government now be doing to meet it?"

A report from Friends of the Earth suggests a "transport revolution" is needed to help the UK meet its target.

The green group said measures include reducing car travel by a fifth by 2030, enduring 100% of new cars are electric, and reducing flights by 18%.

Mike Childs, head of research at Friends of the Earth, said: "Net zero greenhouse gas targets need to be a front-and-centre policy for all arms of government.

"But we have to move right now, and a brilliant example of where Government can show that they're serious is transport because the sector is now the biggest source of greenhouse gases.

"The Department for Transport has gone rogue on climate change and presided over increasing emissions, decimated bus services, and failed to invest properly in cycling and walking.

"Its fixation with aviation expansion and road building needs to end."

Professor Sam Fankhauser, director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said setting the target is an act of "true international leadership" by the UK.

He added: "This new target will provide a clear signal to investors about the direction of Government policy and should help to unlock billions of pounds of investment in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

"However, the UK's political leaders now need to focus on putting in place the policies to realise the target.

"Much stronger policies are needed to accelerate the phase-out of gas central heating and fossil fuel powered vehicles, for instance."

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: "The first nation to use fossil fuels on an industrial scale has just become the first major economy to set an unequivocal goal of phasing them out.

"For the UK, one striking fact has been the cross-party and indeed cross-societal consensus, with no serious opposition in Parliament and the backing of business, farming, faith groups and other important constituencies.

"If the UK can do it, there's no reason for any other developed nation to believe that it can't."