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“No reason for delay” on net zero UK emissions goal say environmental lawyers

As the Paris Agreement enters into force, environmental lawyers are calling for the UK government to do as it promised and commit in law to a national net zero emissions goal.

In March, the Environment Secretary (then Energy Minister) Andrea Leadsom promised that the Paris goal of net zero emissions would be enshrined in UK law. The question was not whether to do it, she said, but how.

Yet eight months on, the government has failed to deliver on this landmark pledge and there are no signs of policy moves towards total decarbonisation.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has been over-cautious in suggesting that now is not the right time.

ClientEarth Climate lawyer Jonathan Church argues that there should be no more dither and delay.

He said: “The government pledged in March to start implementing Paris by putting a net zero emissions target into national law. That commitment still stands. It’s time to decide how we’ll achieve it.

“A net zero emissions target does not put extra strain on existing goals; it just extends the trajectory beyond its abrupt end at 2050. Our efforts won’t end then so neither should our targets.”

“Right now, we have urgent work to do in meeting our emissions targets in the next 10-20 years. But we must not lose perspective. We will also need, before much time is up, to reach net zero emissions and now is the right time to commit to this in law.”

Read Jonathan’s commentary on the net zero emissions target.

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Jo Garbutt