Theresa May commits UK to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

Theresa May commits UK to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
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The United Kingdom's outgoing Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayThe British election will show the undeniable power of nationalism Is Corbyn handing Brexit to Boris Johnson? Boris Johnson is under pressure to stand up to Trump on climate change MORE on Wednesday committed to her country reducing its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, in a first for a major industrial economy.

The pledge comes as May is set to leave her post after her unsuccessful effort to steer Great Britain out of the European Union, and as she seeks more of a legacy for her leadership of the country.

"As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change," May said in a statement. "Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations."


The commitment will be made in amendment to the Climate Change Act in parliament later Wednesday. First passed in 2008, the act currently calls for a 80 percent reduction in emissions. 

The amendment will not need to be voted on by members of parliament because it is a "statutory instrument," a fast-track method that only requires other parties to agree on the issue, which they are expected to do.

The new 2050 target is based on a report from the independent Committee on Climate Change.

The report predicted that if other nations followed the UK's path there would be a 50 percent chance of staying below the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise by 2100, which is considered a key threshold by the scientific community.

One place that May's plan differs from the Committee on Climate Change's suggestion is the use of international carbon offsets.

That policy tool allows a country to pay for cuts elsewhere in lieu of cutting domestic emissions.

John Gummer, chair of the committee, said in last month's report that it was “essential” that such credits were not used.

“It is right that the U.K. is the world's first major economy to commit to completely end its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden to developing nations through International Carbon Credits undermines that commitment,” Doug Parr, chief scientist for climate activism group Greenpeace U.K., told The Hill. “This type of offsetting has a history of failure and is not, according the government’s climate advisers, cost efficient.”

The plan has also received domestic criticism for its potential cost.

Chancellor Philip Hammond last week suggested the net-zero target could cost 1 trillion pounds, necessitating steep cuts from public services.

May's ambitious plan comes amid growing efforts in Europe to contain climate change.

France is currently debating a similar net-zero policy, while Finland and Norway have already committed to the goal before 2040.

—Updated at 10:35 a.m.