Climate change: Boris Johnson announces steeper cuts to UK’s carbon emissions

Boris Johnson has announced a new legal target to cut UK emissions as the country prepares to host COP26 this year

Boris Johnson chairs a virtual session of the UN Security Council on climate and security at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in February 2021 (Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has announced a new legal target to cut the UK’s carbon emissions.

The Prime Minister has said greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 78 per cent by 2035 compared with 1990 levels - nearly 15 years earlier than previously planned.

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The announcement, which is world-leading, was made as President Joe Biden prepares to stage a major US climate summit to set out a new target for his country to reduce emissions.

And it comes as the UK prepares to host the COP26 international climate change summit in November in Glasgow.

The government’s new commitment marks a significant step forward on the current UK target to cut emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, which was already seen as one of the most ambitious plans among developed nations.

‘Most ambitious target in the world’

The Prime Minister said on Tuesday: “We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.

“The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.

“We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit Cop26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.”

The target is in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee, published last year, for the government’s sixth carbon budget.

In its report the committee said that it would effectively bring forward the UK’s commitment to get to an 80 per cent reduction by 15 years.

In order to be achieved, it said that there would have to be more electric vehicles, an extension of offshore wind power generation, a reduction in meat and dairy consumption and the planting of new woodland.

‘Government needs to treat climate change as an emergency’

For Labour, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the government had repeatedly failed to match ambitious promises on emissions with effective action on the ground.

“While any strengthening of our targets is the right thing to do, the government can’t be trusted to match rhetoric with reality,” he said.

“We need a government that treats the climate emergency as the emergency it is.

“This year, as hosts of COP26, the UK has a particular responsibility to lead the world and show the way forward for a greener future. This government isn’t up to the task.”