Prime Minister Theresa May said: “As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.
“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.
“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.
Whilst it will be for future governments to determine the precise direction of future climate policy, the Committee on Climate Change acknowledge that we have laid strong foundations through our Clean Growth Strategy and taken action to tackle climate change across key sectors of the economy identified by the report."
In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement that the government will legislate a 2050 net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions, Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK, said – “This is a big moment for everyone in the climate movement and particularly to the youth climate strikers, who rightly should advise on future climate and environmental policy. Judging by the headline, this is a legacy Theresa May can be proud of. Judging by the small print, this is a net zero target with a backstop.
"As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, it is right that the UK is the world's first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through International Carbon Credits undermines that commitment. This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according the government’s climate advisors, cost efficient.
“While the loopholes being woven into the legislation by the Treasury will need to be unpicked, and the date moved forward, this decision fires the starting gun for a fundamental transformation of our economy. The Government must immediately upgrade our electricity, construction, heating, agriculture and transport systems. They must cancel the Heathrow 3rd runway and road-building plans, and invest public money and provide significant policy support to protect communities, workers and the planet. It's now official – in a climate emergency, business as usual is no longer an option.”
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark said: “We want to continue our global leadership and that’s why we are introducing a legally binding net zero target to end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050. The report we commissioned from the Committee on Climate Change makes clear that we have laid the foundations to achieve a net zero emissions economy, and that it is necessary and feasible.
“Almost 400,000 people are already employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains across the country. Through our modern Industrial Strategy we’re investing in clean growth to ensure we reap the rewards and create two million high quality jobs by 2030.”
Tom Fyans, Deputy Chief Executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: "The government’s commitment to net zero is a bold and necessary step forward in tackling the climate emergency. The longer we leave it to take action on climate breakdown, the more difficult and expensive that task will then become. We therefore urge the government to be even more ambitious with its target, aiming for net-zero by 2045.
‘Now that this target has been set, the government must back it up by introducing policies that ensure that it delivers on its commitments. We need to see policies and funding that guarantees better land use, increases tree and hedgerow planting and reverses the degradation of our soils so that we can drive carbon back into the ground.
‘Many solutions to this crisis lie in restoring our natural world. While the countryside may be on the front line against climate change, it can also provide the solutions that we so desperately need."
Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: “In the dying days of a premiership characterised by chronic inaction on climate breakdown, this sends a powerful message to industry and investors that the age of fossil fuels is over.
“But it is disappointing that the government has ignored its climate advisors recommendation to exclude carbon offsets – as well as caving into Treasury pressure to review the target in five years’ time.
“Fiddling the figures would put a huge dent in our ability to avoid catastrophic climate change – and the government’s credibility for taking this issue seriously. Having declared a climate emergency, Parliament must act to close these loopholes.
“2050 is still too slow to address catastrophic climate change, the UK can and must go faster. The next prime minister must legislate to end our contribution to climate breakdown earlier, put carbon-cutting at the centre of policy-making and pull the plug on plans for more roads, runways and fracking.
“It’s now time to build the carbon-free future that science requires and the public are so loudly demanding.”
Christian Aid’s Global Climate Lead, Dr Alison Doig, said: “It’s a historic day when the country that introduced carbon-based industrialisation to the world announces that it will no longer contribute to climate change. The world is cing a climate emergency and the only way we will solve it is by countries going net zero.
“But today’s announcement does not go far enough. We urge Parliament to push the government towards a target of 2045 at the very latest. Christian Aid firmly believes 2045 is the latest point at which we can safely reach net zero greenhouse-gas emissions. The poorest people on the front lines of climate breakdown cannot wait while we drag our heels - despite being least to blame, they are suffering the consequences now.
“As well as a long term target we need to ensure that we move right away to a greener and fairer economic model. It’s vital that we bring an end to the fossil fuel era, including oil and gas, while promoting energy efficiency, renewables and under-addressed emissions from transport and industry. We need real investment and cross-government action to make that a reality”
Dr Doig added: “Global emissions continue to rise. Currently we’re trying to tackle a house fire by dousing it with petrol. Only when we stop pumping out greenhouse gas emissions can we start to bring the fire under control.”
“The Climate Change Committee advised the Government not to include any international offsets in their net zero calculations, so it is very disappointing to see the Government keeping this option open. Allowing for carbon offsetting slows the rate of decarbonisation while allowing the UK to get the glory of making a commitment.. It is vital that the Government ensures real emissions reductions are made within the UK and not merely outsourced internationally through dodgy loopholes. Otherwise this target will end up as state-sponsored greenwashing.”
Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Chairman, Lord Deben said: "We are delighted that the government has agreed to put a 2050 Net Zero target for all greenhouse gases to a parliamentary vote. I look forward to the same cross-party consensus that we saw in 2008, when the Climate Change Act became law.
"Our report concluded that Net Zero is necessary, feasible and cost effective. This is a major commitment for the coming decades, but we have highlighted the significant benefits of action. This step will send a strong signal to other countries to follow suit – and will help to drive the global effort to tackle climate change required by the Paris Agreement.
"This is just the first step. The target must now be reinforced by credible UK policies, across government, inspiring a strong response from business, industry and society as a whole. The government has not yet moved formally to include international aviation and shipping within the target, but they have acknowledged that these sectors must be part of the whole economy strategy for net zero. We will assist by providing further analysis of how emissions reductions can be delivered in these sectors through domestic and international frameworks.
"The Committee on Climate Change will now move to the task of providing advice on the detailed path to net zero. Our statutory advice to government on the UK’s Carbon Budgets to 2037 is due next year."
Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary of energy and environment union Prospect, said: “It is absolutely right that Ministers listen to the scientific evidence and public concerns about the risks posed by climate change.
“Ambition now needs to be matched by action. We need decisive and sustained leadership from government to ensure that we have the investment and action necessary to deliver the mix of low carbon energy, including new nuclear, to power this new future.
“After too many lost years, this is an enormous task that can only succeed if politicians work with workers, unions and other groups to develop an ambitious plan to secure the jobs and investment we need for a just transition.”
John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid said: “Government has shown today the right leadership in legislating for a 2050 net-zero target. Britain has an opportunity to cement its global leadership in reducing emissions, and to create new economic opportunities as a result. Industry and government must now work together to make the huge progress needed in the decarbonisation of heat and transport, building on the good work which has begun. As the first major economy to legislate for net-zero, we should all now get behind the UK’s bid to host the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCC) COP26 conference next year.”
Jim Totty, Managing Partner at Earth Capital said: "The UK Government’s decision to set a net zero emissions target is an amazing and crucial commitment. It will be the first major country to do so, and underlies the UK’s leadership in backing and investing in sustainable technologies, services and infrastructure. Over the next decade, the UK’s Sustainable Revolution will continue to offer great opportunities for investors. We hope other major economies make similar commitments."
Lord Stern of Brentford, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “This is a historic move by the UK Government and an act of true international leadership for which the Prime Minister deserves great credit.
“A priority for the Treasury and all parts of government is now to put in place policies and institutions which can foster the change at the pace we need.
“In particular, the Treasury should recognise that the significant investments required for the zero-carbon transition will yield very substantial economic returns, such as reductions in local air pollution and greater energy efficiency, as well as the avoided impacts of dangerous climate change. This is a very attractive path of inclusive and clean growth with great advantages nationally and internationally for the UK.
“It is unfortunate that the Government is including a review of the target after five years, as this could create uncertainty for businesses, ultimately making the transition more expensive.”
Edward Hanrahan, Chairman at ClimateCare comments: “We welcome the announcement today. Even though it’s a long-term target - it’s a very important step in the progress towards clear, focused legislation to reduce UK emissions to responsible levels.
"For most large corporates, at its most basic, this is a three-step process with a hierarchy of actions. Where we can reduce internally, we should do so. Where we can’t, offsets will allow us to go further whilst technology is developed. The message is clear, businesses will need to eliminate what they can to start with, then they must reduce what they can’t eliminate and finally they will need to offset the remainder through financing an equivalent amount of emissions reductions outside of the business.
“Offsets will come from both international and UK projects which reduce emissions at scale but also deliver unequalled outcomes in terms of adaptation, economic development, biodiversity, gender, education, food security; all key climate change related issues. In the UK specifically, we have a unique opportunity to hit many objectives at once around biodiversity, flood management and using soil carbon, peatland restoration, afforestation (tree planting) and rewilding to rehabilitate marginal farmland.
“This will help us address not only the climate emergency, but also the declared environmental emergency. The direction of travel is clear, let’s not wait for further individual policies to come into force. Let’s all act now.”
Neville White, head of responsible and sustainable investment at EdenTree Investment Management, said: “The decision announced by the Prime Minister to commit the UK to achieving a net zero carbon emission target by 2050 is welcome and groundbreaking. As investors, we understand the role business can play in helping to progress the necessary transition to a low carbon economy, as well as the challenges in decoupling economic growth from rising emissions. We view climate change and making our planetary home habitable for generations to come as perhaps the greatest challenge facing the current generation. To that extent, investors can and must play a visible role, working with business and industry progressively to decarbonise towards a stretching net zero target.”
Juliet Davenport, CEO and Founder, Good Energy, said: “This historic move puts the UK on track to become a world leader in fighting the climate emergency. Creating a sustainable and low-carbon economy has enormous benefits to our society, environment and quality of life. It is now the job of business to invest and innovate in low-carbon technologies to rapidly bring about this cleaner future.”
Matthew Wright, UK MD of Ørsted, comments: “The UK Government has taken a historic step in the fight against climate change.
“As the first major economy to legislate for a net zero target, the UK shows a bold commitment to a cleaner and greener future.
“As the global leader in offshore wind, with 3.7GW already in operation in the UK, we are proud to be leading the country’s green transformation. Let’s create a world that runs entirely on green energy.”
Mike Foster, Chief Executive, the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) said; “We are at the forefront of climate change policy, with our Climate Change Act. And the announcement today that we will be the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, shows why.”
“Now it’s the turn of the policy makers to create the environment in which industry can achieve net zero. For policy-makers grappling with how to decarbonise heat, they need to keep focussed on peak heat demand.”
“Green gases such as Hydrogen, Biomethane and bio SNG are being increasingly recognised as the preferred solution to meet UK heat demand, which is seasonal and demands a flexible supply. Our members are poised to deliver and ready to work collaboratively with Government to introduce it into people’s homes, businesses and into the UK transport network. EUA believes that green gas addresses the energy trilemma by providing a secure, affordable and flexible source of energy."
“Government have already made a commitment to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid, which will allow for a consumer focused delivery of low carbon heating. They recognise that our world-leading gas grid is a national asset supplying the vast majority of homes, meeting peak heat demands, in a cost-effective manner.”
James Robottom, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Energy and Climate Change Lead, said: “Committing to net-zero by 2050 is a very ambitious and complex challenge but one that engineers have to be at the heart of. The technology and approaches that will deliver net zero are now understood, which is crucial, but will need strong policy leadership to ensure they are implemented.
“Engineers will play a vital advisory role to ensure the deployment of large-scale projects, programmes and large investment in infrastructure is achieved in an effective and timely manner. There is also a vast opportunity for advancements in digital technology to drive efficiency and deliver savings.
“Progress has been made in transport and electricity but this needs to continue at a great pace and significant challenges remain in decarbonising heat and industry. 80% of the homes we will be living in, in 2050, have already been built, meaning foremost a national retrofit programme has to be seriously considered and implemented to bring these into net-zero targets.
“Tackling climate change is the ultimate goal and one engineers and technologists now and in the future can be inspired and motivated to achieve. This target presents an opportunity to develop a world-leading green economy, upskill the current workforce and prepare the next generation to step up to this challenge. We now have the chance to put the UK, and its engineers, as leaders and deliver real solutions to these complex problems.
“The Institution of Engineering and Technology is fully committed to these goals and will do everything it can to assist government, industry and the profession to understand these challenges and work together to progress and implement the solutions to make the UK carbon free by 2050.”
Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, said: “Today’s announcement to enshrine a net zero target into UK law should be welcomed by business. Big, ambitious long-term climate targets help governments and business alike. The UK’s bold leadership helps improve certainty to invest at the scale and speed required.“Companies that we work with to set strong climate targets, such as going fully renewable or purchasing electric vehicles, are meeting or exceeding expectations and making significant profit along the way. We hope that today’s announcement will inspire all British business to act now and help protect our planet for all.”
Steven Day, co-founder of renewable energy company Pure Planet, said: “This announcement is a significant moment for our country.
“At Pure Planet, we have long believed that Britain can be powered by 100% renewable energy in our lifetimes, and our own research found 64% of people want to live in a carbon neutral Britain today so we are hopeful that politicians are finally paying attention.
“Achieving zero net carbon emissions by 2050 is a major commitment and will require us all to think about our impact on the planet.
“People can start today. One way we can all act now is to switch our energy to a green supplier. There are many other simple things which can be done. Many save money, and improve the quality of our lives and environment.”
Chris Hewett, Chief Executive at the Solar Trade Association (STA) said: “Enshrining net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 into law is a vital step in tackling the climate emergency, but long term targets are meaningless without action. In the case of solar and energy storage the Government must move quickly to remove barriers that have needlessly slowed progress. In contrast to the view of the Treasury the whole country will benefit from the energy transition if Government creates a level playing field for all clean energy generation technologies to compete on. Solar and wind are now the lowest cost forms of power generation in the UK, yet there is no route to market and government is continuing to subsidise the fossil fuels it is aiming to phase out.
A 100% renewable energy system, including powering heat and transport, is entirely possible but only with the integration of energy storage which represents a notable industrial opportunity for the UK. The sector is yet another example of the tremendous potential economic opportunities in clean energy if the Government gets pathways to commercialisation and mass market deployment right.
Solar can not only provide clean electricity, but that low cost power can also be used to produce hydrogen and green ammonia, both of which could contribute greatly to the decarbonisation of our homes, transport and shipping sectors. Solar has been key to driving innovation in battery storage and electric vehicles, and it can be scaled to power one home or an entire city. The popularity, affordability and accessibility of solar means it can play a major role now in delivering Net Zero. "
Lit Ping Low, climate change adviser at PwC, said: "While not a surprise, this announcement is a big deal that will drive the behaviours and tech innovations needed to meet the ambitious target.
"The Committee on Climate Change has been advocating the net zero target for a some time, and the UK government had signalled that it was moving in this direction. But signals are not the same as commitment. The new target gives businesses clarity that low carbon targets must be an essential part of business strategy and decisions, whether it's about building or upgrading their infrastructure, developing new products and services, implementing policies for employees, or sourcing supplies.
"The target is ambitious but it needs to be to incentivise behaviour - meeting it is dependent on decisions and technology developments, now and in the coming years, to help reduce emissions. For example, recent research we developed with Microsoft shows greater adoption of AI across even a few sectors could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 4 percent. The Government will be banking on new technologies being developed and deployed to help get emissions to almost zero."
Ken Hunnisett, Project Director and Head of Public Sector at Triple Point Investment Management LLP commented: “We are delighted to learn that the Government has accepted advice from the Committee on Climate Change and will seek to enshrine a net zero target in law during the coming weeks. Heat networks can play a huge role in the achievement of this target. One of the greatest challenges to reducing CO2 emissions is how we heat our homes as some 37% of CO2 emissions in the UK are produced from heating.
District heating or heat networks are vital to achieving the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is thanks to their unique ability to connect a wide range of heat sources including hydrogen, electric heat pumps, green gas, waste heat and solar at point of construction. It will also be possible to plug in further low carbon heating technologies to existing heat networks as they become available. The announcement will stimulate further investment across the UK toward the renewal of heat infrastructure.’’
Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at Business in the Community, said: “Achieving net-zero carbon is a critical task if we are to avoid leaving a legacy of broken planetary life support systems. While Business in the Community endorses this target, 2050 may be too late according to current science-based predictions. UK cities are committing to earlier targets such as Glasgow’s target to achieve net zero carbon by 2045, Manchester by 2038, Edinburgh and Bristol by 2030 and Nottingham by 2028.
“Business is also stepping up to the plate, with companies including Drax and National Grid Ventures developing what may be the world’s first net zero carbon cluster in the Humber and the Water Industry collectively setting a target for net zero by 2030.
“As one of more than 120 organisations that wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister urging the Government to legislate for a 2050 net zero economy, we fully support the UK adopting an ambitious stance to tackle climate breakdown and ask the Government to act quickly.
“Business must be at the forefront of the transformation we need, bringing the innovation and entrepreneurial flair to accelerate change. Drax and the other members of our new taskforce are leading the charge and I am excited about what we can achieve together.”
Jonathan Kini, CEO of Drax Group’s B2B energy supply businesses and chair of Business in the Community’s Net-Zero Carbon Taskforce said: “Business in the Community’s Net-Zero Carbon Taskforce aims to identify the simplest, most effective actions businesses can take, to collectively have a serious impact on climate breakdown and ensure a just transition that benefits all.
“The barriers to sustainability vary from business to business – I know from conversations with our customers that making improvements often appears unnecessarily complicated. We want to break down those barriers and make the solutions simpler to implement, so UK businesses can quickly and easily take effective steps to address the climate crisis.”
Matt Rooney, Engineering Policy Adviser at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, comments: “Achieving net zero will require a transformation of our energy system and the deployment of a broad range of new technologies in every sector of our economy.
"The UK has made great progress in reducing emissions, in particular from the power sector, but going further will necessitate a major upgrade of our energy infrastructure.
"But this should also be seen as an opportunity. In being the first country to legally commit becoming a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy, we can become more innovative and reap the benefits of leading on the development of the novel technologies of tomorrow.
"The importance of skills should not be forgotten in this transition. The engineering challenges involved are daunting and as a country we need to ensure that our workers have the competencies to deliver net zero. With the pace of change we need to remember that our education system will need to evolve to train – and retrain – engineers so that they can thrive in this new world.
"There is little doubt that in the same way the Apollo missions to the moon led to a spike in the number of engineers and scientists, a nationwide, government endorsed net zero greenhouse gas programme will lead to the recruitment of more (and more diverse) entrants to the sector.
"The UK has already shown what can be achieved through a concerted effort in industries like offshore wind. We should now build on today’s announcement and produce a concrete and costed plan for achieving net zero.“
The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) Chief Executive Charlotte Morton said: said; “It is excellent news that the Prime Minister has committed the Government to a net zero plan for emissions by 2050, taking note of Parliament’s calling of a climate emergency and urgings from the Committee on Climate Change. Anaerobic digestion and biogas have a vital part to play in cutting emissions both here in the UK and worldwide, and we would urge other nations to take note of the UK Government’s decision. It is reassuring that most of the contenders for the next Conservative leader and therefore Prime Minister have committed to the net zero 2050 pledge and would urge whoever wins to take forward this ambitious plan into legislation, and hope the House of Commons will support it.
"Crucially, as a technology-ready solution that can tackle climate change right across the economy, it's vital that government recognises and rewards the many benefits of AD so it can make the maximum contribution to decarbonisation at speed and scale. Policies such as the introduction of separate food waste collections in England will make a significant contribution to this, and AD is the Government’s preferred method for recycling that food we cannot utilise up the value chain – this simple change will hugely help us cut our carbon emissions by taking organic material away from landfill and incineration.”