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UK to become first major economy with net zero emissions target, set for 2050

The UK is set to become the first G7 country to commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with legislation to be introduced in Parliament today.

Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May made the announcement today, as the UK seeks to end its contribution to climate change, amending its existing Climate Change Act in the process.

The announcement follows a recent recommendation from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change to set such a goal.

That committee also made a recommendation that the UK stop the sale of any non-zero emission vehicles by 2035, moving up that deadline from 2040. It’s unclear if that recommendation will be adopted, either separately or as part of this new commitment.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children,” May said in a statement, adding:

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

Though some have called the goal historic and transformative, there are still a number of critics who don’t think it’s happening soon enough. The Guardian spoke to some who think that target could be moved up to arrive sooner:

Clara Goldsmith at the Climate Coalition said: “The past 10 years have shown incredible cost reductions in clean technologies, so we firmly believe the UK can go even further, driving innovation to reach net zero before 2045.”

Prof Mark Maslin of University College London said acting sooner would create more green jobs: “We must adopt a 2030 zero carbon target.”

A group of 30 young people, ages 15 to 24, will advise the UK government on how to reach the new target.

Electrek’s Take

Though the critics are right to push back for a more accelerated timeline — the British grid will be ready for 100% renewables by 2025, and Britain keeps setting new records for using no coal whatsoever to generate electricity — this is still a big step for a major economy.

Establishing a target is worthwhile. But what really matters is what actions the UK will take along the way to get there. We’d expect the timeline for a ban on ICE cars to move up to 2035 or earlier, but we’ll see.

The UK also plans on introducing more solar-friendly policies next year, but a country that has declared a climate emergency and has set such a goal shouldn’t let such initiatives slide, losing precious time along the way.

It’s great that young people will have a say in this — whether the government takes their recommendations into serious consideration remains to be seen. But the future of the planet belongs to the youth, and more than anyone else, they deserve seats at the table.

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