The U.K. government is to take steps to tighten the country’s climate legislation, and to enshrine into law the long-term commitment to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050. This goes beyond the already legally binding Climate Change Act, which is meant to see the U.K. reduce emissions by 80 percent over the same period, and instead pushes for full acceptance of the commitments made in Paris last year of zero emissions.
“The question is not whether but how we do it,” the U.K.’s energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, told Parliament this week. Support for the move to tighten the laws to combat climate change comes from both sides of the political divide, and has been welcomed as a move that it is hoped will encourage other nations to also bring into law their commitments to cut emissions made at the Paris climate talks last year. “This is an example once again of the House demonstrating on a cross-party basis a determination to tackle climate change,” said Leadsom.
This announcement comes just after NASA released official data that showed February 2016 was the hottest February on record by a large margin, in what some described as amounting to a “climate emergency.” Not only that, but the seriousness of the need to take action on climate change was further highlighted by the finding that last year saw the largest increase in global carbon emissions since records began. If nothing is done soon, then we will have “locked in” too much climate change to be mitigated by government policies.
But the current U.K. government’s track record when it comes to protecting the environment and tackling climate change has been widely criticized, and many think that this announcement will achieve little. Despite promising to be the “greenest government ever” when they came to power, a whole raft of cutbacks to the green sector by the Conservative party have been seen by many in the industry as catastrophic. Not only has the government announced an end to subsidies for onshore wind farms and solar – largely seen as the cheapest forms of renewable energy – the government has also given its backing to fracking, which by some estimates has carbon emissions comparable to coal.
Despite the government giving the initial go-ahead for a revolutionary tidal lagoon project near Cardiff, which will aim to use waves to produce renewable energy for decades to come, they have come under fire for continuous delays and laborious negotiations to the project lasting over a year. Leadsom says that there are still “an important set of questions to be answered,” but only time will tell if the government holds well on their promises.