UN welcomes UK pledge to enshrine zero emissions goal

Proposed law in line with goals of Paris climate deal, says UN spokesperson, urging governments to attend New York signing ceremony in April


By Ed King

The UN’s climate body has welcomed news the British government will enshrine a zero emissions goal into law, calling on other countries to follow suit.

On Monday energy minister Andrea Leadsom told Parliament it was “not whether but how we do it” in response to a question on making the target legally binding.

“It is great to see a government like the UK moving forward and acting on outcome of Paris,” said Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The long term goal that the government of UK is signalling they will implement is right in line with long term goal of the Paris agreement.

“The next step now is for as many governments who are ready and able to sign the Paris Agreement when it opens for signing on April 22 in New York.”

Report: Business leaders call for net zero emissions by 2050
Report: Paris climate pact spells slow death for fossil fuels

The Paris climate deal saw 195 countries agree to limit global warming to well below 2C, with an aspirational goal of 1.5C, which experts say means arriving at net zero emissions well before 2100.

All countries have been asked to deliver long term deep decarbonisation plans which will chart a course to this goal in the second half of this century. The US and Canada confirmed last week that they would publish their trajectories this year.

The UK’s announcement comes days after NASA scientists warned that high average global temperatures for February were “unprecedented”.

Last week another US science agency – NOAA – said CO2 levels in 2015 made their largest annual leap since records began.

Global reaction

Emmanuel M. De Guzman, head of the Philippines climate commission and chair of the 43-strong Climate Vulnerable Forum welcomed the UK stance and urged other EU governments to follow.

“Bravo, UK. We honor the Paris accord not only by sharing the common goal for a sustainable future, but by acting decisively to secure it,” he said.

“We hope this exemplary act of leadership is sustained and emulated, if not surpassed, by other members of the European Union.”

Unpicked: UK government’s top 10 energy claims

Farhana Yamin, climate advisor to the Marshall Islands and head of the Track 0 NGO said the decision was a sign the implications of the Paris deal were hitting home.

“The signal from the UK government to review the long term targets set out in the Climate Change Act shows that Paris is having a profound effect in getting countries to raise ambition,” she said.

“The cross party support shown for the net zero by 2050 goal shows that the UK is ready to respond to climate science to secure the ‘well below 2 degree and 1.5 global temperature goal’ as called for so many vulnerable countries at Paris.”

The UK government is working on a new climate and energy strategy, slated for release at the end of 2016.

Read more on: EU