House of Commons passes net zero carbon bill

The House of Commons has unanimously passed legislation to commit the UK to its new target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

MPs debated legislation to update the 2008 Climate Change Act’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline to 100%.

The passing of the legislation last night (June 25) comes after the Prime Minister Theresa May announced the country’s ambitious new goal earlier this month.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore, who introduced the bill in Parliament, tweeted: ‘Today the House of Commons passed the milestone legislation to commit the UK to #netzero carbon emissions by 2050.

‘One of the proudest moments of my parliamentary career to speak at the despatch box as @beisgovuk minister introducing it.’

The legislation will now be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow (Wednesday 26 June 2019) before it can receive Royal Assent.

If it is brought into law later this week as expected, the UK will become the first major economy in the world to set a target for net zero emissions, although other economies are expected to follow.

15 nations across the world have now promised to set a target of net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, according to analysis published by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The UK will conduct a further assessment in five years’ time to confirm that other countries are taking similar actions to tackle carbon emissions.

The UK’s progress towards the legally binding target will be monitored by the independent Committee on Climate Change with emissions cuts determined through five-yearly carbon budgets.

The bill’s passing was met with cautious optimism by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who said that the government now needs to act to ensure the UK hits its 2050 target.

Lucas said: ‘It’s not enough just to declare a climate emergency and a net zero emissions target. The Government needs to take appropriate action now. There’s no point in dialling 999 and asking for the fire brigade in 30 years’ time.’

Figures released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) earlier this year revealed that the UK has cut emissions by 44% since 1990.

However, this has mostly been achieved by phasing coal out of the country’s electricity generation in favour of gas, nuclear and other more renewable sources.

Experts now say that in order to hit its target, the UK must tackle its sluggish decarbonisation of other areas of the economy such as transport and business.

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 3% in 2018 from 2017 but the transport and business sectors are lagging behind with the latter reporting a 0% year-on-year reduction, BEIS’ figures revealed.

Current projections show that while the UK is set to comply with its current third Carbon Budget, the UK is set to miss its fourth and fifth Carbon Budgets running from 2023 to 2032.