Talking Zero Carbon

Hope for the Future's researcher,  Laura D'Henin  reports on the zero carbon target.

Hope for the Future's researcher, Laura D'Henin reports on the zero carbon target.

In April 2018, Claire Perry MP, the Minister for Clean Growth and Energy announced that the government will call on the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to lay out a route for tighter carbon controls, in a move towards a net zero emissions target. Net zero refers to the balancing of emissions produced and emissions sequestered or offset, so that overall zero emissions are emitted. A zero emissions target would be a positive step towards meeting the 1.5 degree target set out in the Paris Agreement, as well as showing ambition from the government.

Why is the net zero target something important to raise with your MP?

The current emission reduction target for the UK is 80% reduction against 1990 levels by 2050, as set out in the Climate Change Act (2008). Increasing the ambition from an 80% reduction to a zero carbon target is particularly important if the UK is to meet its commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement, and because the proposals as outlined in the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy are not sufficient to achieve the fourth and fifth carbon budgets (2023-2032).

The 80% emission reduction target against 1990 levels, as set out in the Climate Change Act, is now falling behind the ambition of other countries. Other nations, such as Norway and Sweden have already set net-zero targets in line with the Paris Accord. In order to maintain its role as a leader in climate policy, the UK must step up. In the past, the leading role of the UK in the creation of the Climate Change Act has had international influence, spurring other countries such as Mexico, Finland and Sweden to adopt similar legislation. The UK has the chance to be at the forefront of climate policy again.

The other benefits of a zero carbon target are multiple, such as energy and cost savings from more energy efficient buildings, cleaner air resulting in fewer health problems, and restoration of natural habitats.

Shortly after Claire Perry’s announcement, Bright Blue, an independent liberal conservative think tank, released a report which provides seven recommendations, including strengthening the Climate Change Act to a net zero emission target. We’ve picked out some recommendations which would provide a good basis for meeting with your MP to discuss the zero carbon target. You may choose one or two of the recommendations based on your interests; having something tangible to speak to your MP about can prompt a more productive conversation:

  1. Enshrine in law a net zero greenhouse gas emission target in line with the Paris Agreement: there are hopes that the timescale for the net zero target would be 2050.

  2. Allow some limited flexibility to meet the new net zero emissions target using carbon permits: the most recent CCC modelling found that only 92% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions could be feasibly eliminated with existing technologies. Sweden’s net zero target allows for up to 15% of emissions to be offset through carbon permits.

  3. Include international aviation and shipping formally in carbon budgets: currently the UK does not have a legal obligation to reduce or allow for aviation/shipping emissions

  4. Fund farmers, landowners and land managers to store carbon on their land: peatland restoration and trees can act as carbon sinks, and absorb carbon from the atmosphere, therefore contributing to the UK’s emission reduction targets.

  5. Establish and lead an international net zero alliance: this could prompt other countries to enshrine in law a zero carbon target.

Following Claire Perry’s announcement, a cross-party group of senior MPs, led by Conservative MP Simon Clarke, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for the target to be enshrined in law within the current parliament. Perhaps your MP will also show support for the net zero target. This year, The Climate Coalition’s (TCC)  Week of Action is centred around the zero carbon target. You can visit their website here to find out how your MP can sign a letter to Theresa May, or you can view  the TCC's MP briefing on the zero carbon target here.

You can also read the whole report from Bright Blue here. If you would like to meet with your MP about the zero carbon target or any other climate change related issue, contact us for all the support you need.

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