The UK has today announced its impressive Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), setting the scene for what will be a momentous COP26.
The Prime Minister has recognised the urgency of climate change and the need to accelerate decarbonisation efforts. Maximising the opportunity for a green recovery post-pandemic, the ambitious NDC sets a target of 68% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This sets the UK well on course for net zero by 2050, but perhaps even sooner.
As the host of next November’s UN Climate Summit, the setting of this target is an important signal from the UK to other countries on the level of ambition they should aspire to. The target also signals a wider effort by the UK on climate change - it is the first target to be set having left the EU and is one of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets announced across the world.
Eyes are now on other countries to join this global effort. The President Delegate of COP26 and Business and Energy Secretary, Alok Sharma, has called upon other countries to match his and the Prime Minister’s ambition:
“The UK’s new emissions target is among the highest in the world and reflects the urgency and scale of the challenge our planet faces. I hope other countries will join us and raise the bar at next week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit, and ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year.”
A key concern among academics, environmentalists, and policymakers is that this round of NDCs could fall short in terms of setting 2030 targets that actually keep the world on track for net zero by 2050. The leadership the UK has shown with this target alone should allay some of these concerns, although there is still much to do to ensure countries maximise their capacities for cleaner and greener growth. Many countries, including Japan, China, and South Korea, have set long-term net zero targets but have yet to announce their 2030 NDCs.
The NDC announcement comes after the Chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Lord Deben, wrote to the Business and Energy Secretary expressing his view that the 68% reduction target would “place the UK among the leading countries in climate ambition” and would “constitute a decisive commitment to the net zero trajectory”. The CCC is the independent committee advising the government on its climate efforts and on this 68% NDC. The increase in the 2030 target from the previous 53% reflects the government’s focus on climate action and appreciation of its responsibility to set the tone for COP26. The UK Conservative Party has become one of the leading parties in the world on delivering climate action.
Coming after the Prime Minister’s announcement of his 10-point plan for climate action, the NDC ought to focus the minds of policymakers and departments on the challenge of decarbonising at such a pace. The challenge also creates huge opportunity, however, with over a quarter of a million green jobs set to be created amidst the push for renewables, sustainable building, and green finance.
The UK’s 68% emissions reduction target compares to the EU Commission encouraging a 55% emissions reduction target by 2030.