The UK should aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, according to its chief advisory committee on climate change.
If adopted, the target proposed in a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) would be the most ambitious emissions reduction goal set by any large economy.
Net zero means that any emissions are balanced by an equivalent amount taken from the atmosphere.
The UK government doesn’t have to act on the findings, but it commissioned the report after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned last year that the world has less than 12 years to slash emissions and avoid disastrous levels of global warming. The IPCC says global greenhouse gas emissions need to reach net zero around 2050.
The CCC says the new target is “necessary, feasible and cost-effective” but that it requires drastic action, including phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles completely by 2035, planting 30,000 hectares of trees each year and cutting beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 20% by 2050.
At a briefing ahead of the report launch, Lord Deben, CCC chairman and former secretary of state for the environment, said, “This net-zero target puts us at the top of the pile. We say to the government: this can be done, you have the proof, but it won’t happen unless you take the lead.”
It comes a day after the UK parliament declared “an environment and climate emergency,” making it the first country in the world to do so, according to the opposition Labour Party.