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Industry backs zero-carbon legislation

Air pollution chimney clouds 459728

Industry leaders have rallied around prime minister Theresa May’s announcement that the UK will eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050. 

The plan put forward by the outgoing prime minister will result in goals set out by the Committee on Climate Change incorporated into the Climate Act 2008.  

The goals are set out in the Committee’s Net Zero report in May . They show how the UK can effectively reduce its carbon emissions output to zero by increasing electrification of transport, ramping up renewable energy production and investing in carbon capture technology.   

In reaction, industry heavyweights such as National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt and Environment Agency chair Emma Boyd welcomed the move (see box below). 

The legislation will mean that the UK is on track to become the first G7 country to legislate for net zero emissions. 

Under the terms of the legislation, all sources of carbon pollution in the UK are to be eradicated by 2050. Those that cannot be removed will be offset by carbon removal from the atmosphere.   

May said the targets are ambitious but it was time for the UK to lead efforts to tackle climate change. “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,” she said. “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.” 

Earlier this month, over 120 companies including civil engineering and construction giants wrote to May in an open letter urging her to make the Net Zero commitments law.  

Industry Reaction

National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt: 

“Protecting the UK’s economy and environment from the impacts of climate change is probably one of the biggest challenges we face in the decades ahead. We cannot do this without first putting in place the infrastructure we need to change how we travel and power and heat our homes and businesses.”  

Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex: 

“The commitment by government to meet net zero by 2050 is undoubtedly positive news. For decades nuclear has consistently provided reliable, large scale, low carbon energy and will play an integral role in achieving net zero. That is why it is essential government gives the necessary support to ensure our ageing nuclear fleet is replaced.”  

Railway Industry Association technical director David Clarke:

“Over the coming years, we will need a mix of train traction to decarbonise the network – whether that’s hydrogen, battery or electrification technology. For intensively used routes, electrification is the optimal solution, so we call on government to work with us to establish a rolling programme of electrification.”  

Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit director Richard Black:

“By becoming the first major nation to set a net zero target in national legislation, ahead of the likes of France and Germany, it restores the UK to a position of international leadership with a target that’s fully in line with science and will deliver the UK’s fair share of keeping global warming below the ‘safe’ level of 1.5°C.” 

Environment Agency chair Emma Boyd:

“We know that investing in zero carbon solutions is good for growth – boosting jobs and the economy – and it is cheaper for business, organisations and government to tackle climate change now than to manage its impacts in the future. This is not only the right thing to tackle the climate emergency for future generations but a huge opportunity to increase our energy efficiency, improve our resilience and deliver a greener, healthier society.”  

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