UK plans to become first G7 economy with net zero carbon emissions

United Kingdom hopes to reach milestone by 2050

By Ben Westcott and David Wilkinson, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

(CNN) - The United Kingdom is planning to become the first major economy to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, Downing Street said in a statement Tuesday.

Legislation aiming to achieve that will be laid out in Parliament on Wednesday and will amend the Climate Change Act passed in 2008.

The new law should ensure that United Kingdom is on track to become the first G7 country with legally binding plans for net zero emissions.

"Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children," outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

"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."

The announcement comes following weeks of pressure from political and business groups for the government to commit to cutting carbon emissions.

The UK's Committee on Climate Change announced in early May that it was advising the government to reach net zero emissions by 2050, one day after Parliament declared "an environment and climate emergency."

A group of more than 100 companies, investors and lobby groups sent an open letter to Downing Street on May 30, calling for May to leave "a legacy of clean growth."

"We see the threat that climate change poses to our businesses and to our investments, as well as the significant economic opportunities that come with being an early mover in the development of new low-carbon goods and services," the business leaders' letter said.

It was signed by prominent global companies such as Siemens, Shell and Nestle.

According to the Committee on Climate Change report, the reduction in climate emissions will involve drastic action including phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 and cutting beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 20% by 2050.

It also called for tens of billions of pounds to be invested in new renewable energy, electric vehicles and tree planting.

Currently, the UK has a target of curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Emissions had fallen by 42% in 2016.

While May said they planned to go ahead with the new laws no matter what, her statement added that it was "imperative" for other major economies to follow suit.

The UK will conduct an assessment within five years to establish whether those nations are taking equivalent steps to cut greenhouse gasses.

CNN's Isabelle Gerretsen and Ivana Kottasova contributed to this article.

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