The UK declared a climate emergency in 2019, becoming the first major economy in the world to pass legislation that commits the country to net zero emissions by 2050. There are different official carbon targets for different parts of the UK, however. For example, Scotland has committed to net zero by 2045, while Wales has aligned with the UK target of 2050, but with ambitions to get there sooner.
As host of COP26, the UK will be expected to lead other nations in climate commitments over the next two weeks. The country is already going above and beyond, having committed to cut emissions at a faster rate than other developed nations, with a target of 78% emissions reduction by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.
In his address to world leaders during the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that “humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change.” He added: “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now. If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.” In a nod to the major aims of the climate summit, Johnson alluded to several of the UK’s climate commitments, including a ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 to help reduce emissions from transport, as well as global goals to phase out coal and reverse deforestation by 2030.
Ahead of COP26, the UK Government launched its Net Zero Strategy, which sets out how the country will reach its net zero target by 2050. Underpinned by an investment of £90 billion, the strategy outlines the support that will be provided to businesses and consumers in the transition to clean energy and green technology – including reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels and switching to low carbon travel options. In the same week, the government released its Heat and Buildings Strategy, which will encourage the transition to low carbon heating in the UK’s 30 million homes – which currently account for 22% of the country’s carbon emissions.