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Theresa May plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero

Theresa May will pledge to push ahead with plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 despite warnings about the huge costs – and her impending departure from Downing Street

  • The UK will become the first major economy to put the ‘crucial’ target into law 
  • Chancellor Philip Hammond raised concerns that it will cost UK more than £1tn 
  • Mrs May insisted that ‘now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children’ 

Theresa May will today press ahead with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 despite a warning from the Chancellor about the cost to the country.

The UK will become the first major economy to put the target into law as one of the Prime Minister’s last acts in Number 10, arguing that it is ‘crucial’ to ‘ensure we protect our planet for future generations’.

Ahead of the announcement, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised concerns in a leaked letter to Mrs May that the move will cost Britain more than £1trillion.

Theresa May will today press ahead with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 despite a warning from the Chancellor about the cost to the country

He warned that it could mean less money is available for schools, police, hospitals and other areas of public spending.

But Mrs May yesterday insisted that ‘now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children’.

The Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change last month recommended putting a new goal into law to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 100 per cent by 2050.

Under a net-zero target, emissions would have to be largely eliminated from electricity generation, transport and heating, with a switch to renewables, electric vehicles and an end to traditional gas-fired boilers for heating homes.

Any remaining pollution by 2050 from areas such as agriculture and flying will need to be offset through measures to capture carbon, such as planting trees.

In its report, the Committee on Climate Change forecast significant benefits to public health and savings to the NHS from better air quality and less noise pollution, which it said could ‘partially or possibly even fully offset’ the cost.

Mrs May said last night: ‘As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change.

Ahead of the announcement, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised concerns in a leaked letter to Mrs May that the move will cost Britain more than £1trillion

‘We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.

‘Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.

‘Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.’

The Prime Minister added that the UK will review the target in five years ago to check whether other countries are taking similarly ambitious action and to make sure that British industries are not facing unfair competition.

The announcement was welcomed by CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, who declared that British business ‘stands squarely’ behind the commitment.

She said: ‘This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it.

‘Climate leadership can drive UK competitiveness and secure long-term prosperity. This legislation must be followed by a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy.

The UK will become the first major economy to put the target into law as one of the Prime Minister’s last acts in Number 10, arguing that it is ‘crucial’ to ‘ensure we protect our planet for future generations’. Stock picture

‘Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future.’

In his letter to the Prime Minister, which was leaked to The Financial Times last week, Mr Hammond backed setting a net-zero target as soon as possible.

But he warned the UK is off track on meeting interim ‘carbon budgets’ to cut emissions, and a new target will require ambitious policies in this parliament.

He added that it would require heating to be almost entirely decarbonised, leaving households having to replace gas boilers with alternatives such as heat pumps, which cost ‘three times more’.

Homeowners would also need to spend thousands or tens of thousands of pounds on insulation, he wrote. 

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