If adopted, the target proposed in a report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) would be the most ambitious emissions reduction goal set by any large economy.
The CCC says the new target is “necessary, feasible and cost-effective” but that it requires drastic action, including phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles completely by 2035, planting 30,000 hectares of trees each year and cutting beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 20% by 2050.
At a briefing ahead of the report launch, Lord Deben, CCC chairman and former secretary of state for the environment, said, “This net-zero target puts us at the top of the pile. We say to the government: this can be done, you have the proof, but it won’t happen unless you take the lead.”
To achieve the net-zero target tens of billions of pounds will need to be invested in renewable energy, electric vehicles, capturing and storing carbon emissions, and planting trees, according to the CCC.
The CCC report suggests a 2045 target for Scotland as the country has “greater potential to remove pollution from its economy” and said Wales should aim for a 95% emissions reduction by 2050 due to its large sheep farming industry.
Following the release of the report, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would commit to the new target and continue its “global leadership in tackling climate change.”
Costs to reach the 2050 goal will total 1-2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year, the same amount estimated for the current target, the report said.
Extinction Rebellion activist Rupert Read told CNN that the 2050 target would not mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change and that the UK should aim to eliminate emissions by 2025.
“We [the UK] started the industrial revolution. We started the path that has lead us to this precipice. We have a responsibility to help lead a common way out of this looming catastrophe,” he said.
Professor Jim Watson, director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said that a net zero UK economy is “technically achievable” but that it relies on the treasury monitoring “emissions as closely as we monitor GDP growth and employment.”
He added that a zero emissions strategy should provide “the right incentives for businesses and have justice at its heart.”
Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, said that the 2050 target is “too far in the future.”
“As one of the leading countries in the fight against climate change, Britain must adopt a 2030 zero-carbon target, giving us 10 years to put in place win-win solutions that reduce carbon emissions, save money and make Britain a better, cleaner place to live,” he said.