Smaller economies worldwide are adopting carbon neutral emission laws. On the other hand, countries like the United States are simply talking about it. For the United Kingdom, carbon neutrality isn’t just theoretical. It has recently become the first major economy in the world to pass laws enforcing net-zero carbon emissions. It’s a huge step, and no doubt, it has paved the way for other large economies to follow suit.
What does the legislation involve?
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signed the legislation into effect June 27, 2019, after passing both houses of Parliament without a vote. These new regulations require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. This greatly exceeds the previous target of cutting emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels.
“The U.K. kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” Skidmore said in a statement.
“Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.”
How will it be implemented?
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change originally recommended the idea. It stated that the net-zero target could be achieved within a budget of 1-2% of GDP by 2050. The Committee added that if Britain’s actions were replicated worldwide, the effect would be tremendous. Specifically, it would make limiting the average global temperature rise to the “safe” limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius possible.
The country has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 43.5% since 1990, mostly due to its shift away from fossil fuels. This goal, however, will require the UK to add even more renewable energy sources; completely eradicate fossil fuel vehicles by 2035; and cut beef and lamb consumption by 20 percent.
Additionally, net-zero emissions require the UK to balance greenhouse gas emissions through strategies including planting trees or carbon capture. These stratagies intend to effectively balance atmospheric gas levels, and therefore make up for any pollution the UK emits.
How will the UK’s carbon neutrality laws impact other countries?
The UK is also part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which will allow it to reach net-zero emissions via international carbon credits. This means the UK can “offset” its own emissions by paying for cuts elsewhere.
However, ever since the UK enacted the legislation, environmentalists have argued that this policy detrimental to developing countries. According to the chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, “this type of offsetting has a history of failure.”
The UK, on the other hand, has deemed these carbon credits as an “essential” part of the 2050 cutoff. “We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy,” Skidmore stated.