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Saved by Zero

May 2, 2019

Businesses are saying ‘get on with it’, adults and children across the UK are calling for it and now the committee advising the UK Government on climate change has said it’s both feasible and affordable: the UK setting a net zero emissions target by 2050.

This net zero target is needed to meet the Paris Agreement commitment to stay ‘well below 2C’ and pursue efforts to limit temperature rises to 1.5C. In order for businesses and others to work confidently towards this target, we now need the UK Government to legislate for this and start implementing the changes needed. Tearfund is asking the Government to raise that ambition further and become net zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. Research from WWF and Vivid Economics shows it is possible for the UK to go net zero by 2045 by reducing emissions and then balancing the remaining emissions out by planting more trees, restoring peatlands and using technologies to capture and store carbon.

This guidance from the Committee on Climate Change comes at a crucial time when the UK public is making it clear that we want increased and urgent action on climate change. Over recent months we’ve seen a seminal TV documentary by David Attenborough, protests, school strikes and declarations of a climate emergency by local and regional authorities, and this week, the UK and Scottish Parliament.

Today’s recommendation, if adopted, would be a key opportunity in turning that sense of urgency into action and be a litmus test for how serious the Government is to tackle climate change.

The Committee has calculated that to reach net-zero emissions will only cost 1-2% of GDP.  This is the same as the cost it estimated for reaching the 80% emission reduction target enshrined within the Climate Change Act in 2008.  All the economic evidence is that the cost of action is far less than the cost of inaction. Dangerous levels of climate change could cause massive and permanent damage to the UK and global economy.

We know that climate change is already affecting all of us, but as we’ve seen from the unprecedented occurrence of two cyclones in five weeks hitting the coast of eastern Africa – people in poverty are hit the hardest. So, the decision the UK government now faces is a no-brainer – it has to act swiftly to implement today’s recommendations.

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