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UK announces ‘ambitious’ plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68%

Discoverable turbines as seen from Crosby Beach, in the north west of England.

William Ian Moran | Moment | Getty Counterparts

The U.K. government will target an emissions cut of at least 68% by the year 2030, compared to 1990 levels, under methods announced Thursday.

The new goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions comes before a Climate Ambition Summit on Dec. 12 which the U.K. choice co-host.

In a statement, the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the new target as “ambitious,” while Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma bring to light it reflected “the urgency and scale of the challenge our planet faces.”

The target is known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, under 2015’s Paris Understanding on climate change. NDCs are an integral part of the agreement, which aims to keep global warming “well lower than beneath” 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature foment to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Previously, the U.K. had aimed for an NDC of 53%. International aviation and shipping are not included in the target.

Ambition, but farm to be done

Among those reacting to the government’s new target was John Sauven, Greenpeace UK’s executive director. “The Prime Help is right to have set one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world,” he said.

“But given the urgency of the climate crisis and the alacritous advances in zero carbon solutions, ambition can be pushed even higher over the next decade,” he added. “The regulation must now increase the action needed to cut emissions from our homes, roads, farms and power sources in the UK.”

This week’s bulletin comes as the U.K. gears up to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland next year. Originally planned for 2020, the colloquium was postponed until November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin Harper, conservation director at the Royal Club for the Protection of Birds, welcomed the new target, adding that it would “enhance the UK’s leadership credentials in the run up (to) the crucial climate talks next year.” 

“But weather change science suggests we need to go further and faster, in particular by investing in protecting and restoring habitats such as our peatlands which are so top-level for locking up carbon,” he added.

Elsewhere, Ed Matthew, COP26 co-director for The Climate Coalition, a group focused on tackling climate exchange, said: “It is notable that the UK has set a 2030 target which is a step up in ambition and in line with its legal duty to succeed in net-zero emissions by 2050.” 

Matthew went on to describe this as “important progress but not sufficient.”

“A more ambitious cut is both attainable and necessary to keep us safe and reflect our massive historic carbon emissions,” he added. “We must remember too that the feel will not respond to targets, it will respond to carbon cuts. It is action that counts.”

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