UK’s Goal of Net-Zero Carbon by 2050 Becomes Law

The Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Suffolk, England.

The Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Suffolk, England. Courtesy of SSE

The United Kingdom’s goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has now become law, making the UK the world’s first G7 country to establish this form of legally binding target, Reuters reported. The target was announced earlier this month by outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, who called it a “crucial” plan for protecting the planet.

The 2050 goal, which replaces a previous target to slash emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by the same deadline, has been added as an amendment to the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act. It will require Britain to add vast amounts of renewable energy, phase out fossil fuel vehicles by 2035, and cut beef and lamb consumption by 20 percent. The country has already cut its greenhouse emissions by 43.5 percent since 1990, largely due to its rapid shift away from coal and other fossil fuel-based electricity to renewable energy sources such as solar and offshore wind.

“The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” Chris Skidmore, energy and clean growth minister, said in a statement. “Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.”

The target does allow the UK to reach net-zero emissions by using international carbon credits, which enables a country to offset its own emissions by paying for cuts elsewhere, The Guardian reported. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has called carbon credits an “essential” part of the country’s 2050 goal. But some environmentalists argue such programs shift the burden of addressing climate change to developing nations. “This type of offsetting has a history of failure,” Doug Parr, the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian.