Government sets new target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035

The UK government has confirmed it will set a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. The target will be set in law and is in line with recommendations from the independent Climate Change Committee.

The announcement brings forward the current target for reducing emissions by 15 years, and is world-leading. For the first time, it incorporates the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions – an important part of the government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.

The announcement comes just ahead of Earth Day (22nd April) – and a US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden on Earth Day (22 April). Prime Minister Boris Johnson is giving an opening address at the summit and will urge countries to raise ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in setting stretching targets for reducing emissions by 2030 to align with net zero.

The government is already working towards its commitment to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution – the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date. 2050 is the legally binding date by which the UK must achieve net zero emissions – effectively ending its contribution to climate change.

The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world. The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs. We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”

More policy detail is needed on how the government will achieve this reduction target. The government says will look to meet it through investing and capitalising on new green technologies and innovation, whilst maintaining people’s freedom of choice, including on their diet. A comprehensive cross-government Net Zero Strategy will also be published ahead of the COP26, climate change summit in November, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng currently commissioning work across Whitehall to help inform the plans across key sectors of the economy.

HM Treasury will publish its Net Zero Review in the coming months setting out how government plans to maximise economic growth opportunities from the net zero transition while ensuring contributions are fair between consumers, businesses and the British taxpayer.