I met Claire Perry (our MP and the minister for Clean Energy) for the first time last Friday when I attended her MP’s surgery in Devizes – with two other members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
We were looking for advice on how best to respond to a current government consultation on taxing carbon emissions after Brexit but, during the conversation, the issue of “net zero by 2050” came up.
This new, tougher target for the UK getting to net zero (i.e. all remaining greenhouse gas emissions cancelled by actions such as tree planting) within little more than thirty years, was recommended by the government’s own Climate Change Committee in a report just last month and so I asked whether this target was likely to become official policy.
I was surprised to be told, with great confidence, that this would indeed become a legally binding commitment ‘very soon’. I suspected I was just being told what I wanted to hear, by an expert politician, who might very well not be in post long enough to deliver – given all the current political uncertainties.
Well credit where credit’s due. Less than a week later I have woken up to the wonderful news that our government is going to make this policy official later today (June 12). Thank you Claire, I know you have played a central role in making this happen.
There is, of course, a ‘but’. There’s a suggestion that this new target should be revisited after a few years if other countries have not followed suit.
Another theme of our discussions last week was that the UK has a great record on climate change action ‘compared to other nations’. This is the wrong benchmark! What matters is our record compared to what needs to be done and that is not set by other countries but, instead, by the Laws of Physics. You cannot negotiate with the climate system.
Last October’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that we must start reducing emissions immediately and get them to zero by 2050 if we’re to have a 50:50 chance of keeping temperature rises below 1.5°C.
A policy of zero five zero (i.e. net zero by 2050) is the bare minimum standard set by Nature. It’s not an arbitrary target that can be negotiated over but, instead, the very least we should be doing. Indeed, it’s almost certainly not quite enough.
However, today we should be celebrating. It’s not easy for me to say this because, as many of you will know, my wife (Jo Waltham) will be the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Devizes constituency at the next general election.
But I’ll say it anyway – well done Claire for getting net-zero in 2050 accepted. Excellent job!
12 June 2019