UK emission targets won't be reached by 2050, think tank says

·3-min read

The UK is on course to reduce its emissions by less than a fifth of what's needed to meet interim climate change targets, according to data shared exclusively with Sky News.

The think tank Green Alliance says its analysis of current policies shows the longer-term goal of being net zero by 2050 is also in jeopardy.

The government is shortly expected to announce a ten point plan of action on climate change. But Green Alliance says even proposed policies including bringing forward the banning of sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars wouldn't be enough to get the government to even half of its interim reduction target.

Sales of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars are currently due to end in 2040 though the government is considering bringing that forward to 2035 and green groups want them withdrawn by 2030.

The government has set a legally binding target for the UK to be net zero by 2050. In 2018 the UK emitted 451 megatonnes of carbon. If there was a linear reduction of carbon by 2030 emissions would need to have been reduced to 314 megatonnes.

Green Alliance says this year the government announced policies to reduce emissions by 47 million tonnes towards the interim 2030 emissions reduction target - notably the expansion of wind and solar power. But it says that amounts to a 17% reduction of what needs to be done to meet the interim target.

If you add in proposed new policies currently out to consultation that would reduce emissions by another 53 million tonnes - together that would mean a 36% reduction of the emissions cuts needed to meet the 2030 target.

There is huge pressure on the UK to show it is a leader on tackling climate change ahead of hosting next year's COP26 climate conference when the world aims to agree ambitious pledges to reduce greenhouse gases.

Jo Furtado, policy advisor at the Green Alliance, said: "COP26 is a key moment for the UK to prove itself a climate leader on the global stage. But the UK can't ask other countries to commit to more ambitious climate action without putting its own house in order first.

"As things stand polices announced this year in the UK will only reduce emissions by 17% of what is needed to hit our 2030 climate target. The government needs to act now to introduce the policies needed to get the UK on track for net zero and our 2030 climate goal before it can claim global leadership on climate action."

Transport is the biggest emitting sector in the UK generating around a third of the UK's annual carbon emissions - and that includes public transport and aviation. But vehicles make up the vast majority of transport emissions and cars and vans account for 19% of all of the UK's emissions.

Green Alliance says the biggest impact the government could have in hitting its interim targets would be to bring forward the phasing out date of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and include it in the ten point plan.

It's thought the government's climate strategy will include greater investment in green innovation such as carbon capture and storage; hydrogen and nuclear along with increased nature spending. And new measures to get buildings ready for net zero.

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government how to get to net zero, has previously said the UK is not on course to achieve its fourth and fifth carbon budgets - the amount of greenhouse gases it says the country should limit itself to emitting.