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This is not the time to water down our green commitments

This is not the time to water down our green commitments

Chair of the UK government’s recent Net Zero Review and former energy minister, Chris Skidmore MP, explains how the Westminster Climate Declaration can keep the UK at the forefront of global climate leadership.

When the United Kingdom became the first G7 country to legally commit to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we set the standard of true climate leadership. This proud commitment was only possible because all sides of the political spectrum worked together to ensure the UK did its part in mitigating the worst of climate change. This climate leadership has delivered documentable change: our carbon dioxide emissions over the past 20 years have been reduced by nearly 50 per cent when compared to 1990 levels. Internationally, we have encouraged over 90 per cent of the world’s GDP to be covered by net-zero targets and legal obligations.

Now is the vital moment to double down on the good work we have already done to drive the transition forward. Already the green sector provides the UK economy with over half a million domestic jobs. Analysis from the University of Oxford, detailed in the Net Zero Review report, shows a potential two per cent additional growth in GDP, saving families money on household bills. On the other hand, delaying our net-zero transition could lead to UK debt increasing by 23 per cent of GDP by 2050, as many of the jobs and innovative technologies involved in the green transition move to foreign nations.

Recently, there were concerns about the government watering down or even U-turning on our net-zero concerns, rather than doubling down on the potential benefits of the transition. To be clear, doing so now would be disastrous, as we would not only fail in our medium term 2030 goals but be forced to completely abandon our 2050 obligations. Now is the time to lean into the transition, and it is the responsibility of the government to both get out of the way of the private sector, who are already transitioning, and to provide the legislative framework for companies to feel confident in investing in their own transitions. The overriding message of the independent review was to challenge any government to deliver legislative clarity, certainty and consistency across the net-zero space.

This year will mark seven years since the Paris Agreement when 196 countries committed to reducing their emissions and working together to adapt to the impacts of climate change. With the goal to keep the rise in global average temperature limited to 1.5°C and well below 2°C, the window for achieving our Paris Agreement obligations is closing. A major stocktake will be in December when COP28 will take place in Dubai, marking seven years until we reach the important 2030 target, when we must reduce global emissions by nearly 50 per cent.

Note: You can purchase Chris Skidmore’s ‘Mission Zero’ (originally a 330-page Net Zero Review) as a paperback book using a special discount, £9.99 instead of its retail price of £14.99 (use discount code ZEROM), here courtesy of Energy Security & Green Infrastructure Week 2023.