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Enock Ebbah

Could the UK Fail it's 2030 Net-Zero Targets?

Analysis shows that the UK is falling off its 2030 targets by a significant margin. In December 2020, the UK laid forth an ambitious proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by at least 68% by 2030. The target was part of the UK’s nationally determined contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement - a treaty signed by 196 parties nearly ten years ago, committing to definitive climate goals.

February 2024

The commitment placed the UK at the front of the parapet to cut emissions at the fastest rate of the major economies and tackle climate change head-on. A decade before the announcement, the UK had already made considerable strides in reducing GHG emissions. It was the first major economy to achieve the levels of decarbonisation required to achieve Net-Zero by 2050.

However, recent data analysis by Friends of the Earth has demonstrated that the UK government needs to catch up by a wide margin to reach its target level of decarbonisation by 2030. 

What Is The UK’s Net-Zero Target?

The UK government has committed to achieving Net-Zero emissions by 2050, with critical sector decarbonisation targets for power, transport, and industry. The overarching goal of this target is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. These targets were crystalised into UK law as the Climate Change Act 2008.

The Paris Agreement operates on a five-year cycle of increasing the degree of ambitious climate action compared to previous plans set out by countries. Year on year, nationally determined contributions are expected to have higher targets than previous years. To achieve the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must reach their peak by 2025 and decline by 43% by 2030. 

Setting near-term targets is one of the fundamental actions highlighting companies’ and countries’ likelihood of achieving Net-Zero by 2050. Near-term Net-Zero targets are critical milestones for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in relatively short timeframes and enabling a realistic decarbonisation trajectory over time. As a result, the UK government has near-term ambitions to reduce GHG emissions by 68% by 2030 and to allow a realistic chance of achieving Net-Zero by 2050. 

Will The UK Meet Its 2030 Net-Zero Targets?

A new assessment by Friends of the Earth indicates that looking at the current emissions trajectory based on the Climate Change Committee ratings of the most recent government plans, the UK government would fail to achieve the level of decarbonisation for its 2030 target. 

Regarding the Friends of the Earth methodology for the data analysis, they used three possible scenarios: a best-case scenario, a central estimate, and a worst-case scenario. Even if the best-case scenario were to play out, there would still be a 4% deficit from the intended target – with the worst-case and central estimate painting a much bleaker picture of 9% and 15% deficiencies.

There will be a knock-on effect on the subsequent targets after 2030 for the reduction of GHG. If this progresses further, the gap could widen and cause an even larger deficiency.

What Has Caused The Shortfall In Targets?

The current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, confirmed the government’s commitment to the 2030 and 2050 Net-Zero targets. However, the Friends of the Earth evaluation suggests Sunak’s decision to scrap or delay several pivotal climate change policies severely reduced the credibility and robustness of the climate change mitigation plans. One of Friends of the Earth’s critical findings is that a year into the current Prime Minister’s premiership, the gap between the 2030 target and the projected emissions increased by +55% under the central estimate trajectory. 

To summarise, recent government policies have impacted the UK’s ability to meet its 2030 climate targets. If we are to correct this, there is a need for revised, comprehensive, robust, and definitive decarbonisation plans. We need to fasten the uptake of sustainable products, upgraded home insulation, renewable energy, reliable public transport and upgraded electric grids. Before the gap widens even further, we must find our footing.

How Can You Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a necessity if we are to build a better and safer future for our planet. By chipping in individually, we can construct a brighter future together. Not only will you be helping secure the future of our planet, but you’ll also be gaining a whole host of financial and business benefits. If you want to take this a step further, we strongly encourage you to fortify your knowledge with a professional certificate like the IEMA Pathways to Net Zero. 

About The Author 

Enock Ebbah MSc has a wealth of combined experience, having spent 13 years developing and delivering energy, environment and sustainability projects, energy research and responsible engineering. His specialist expertise in strategic Net-Zero solutions, energy transition, decarbonisation initiatives, and sustainable approaches to using energy, materials, and resources for sustainable development. As an Environment and Sustainability Consultant at Astutis, Enock helps organisations deliver ambitious environment, sustainability, and Net-Zero outcomes by providing environmental assessments, environmental and sustainability training, ESG materiality assessments, as well as sustainability reporting and strategy.

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