Pressure mounts on Britain to update its UN climate target

Scotland and British businesses are piling pressure on the UK government to set an ambitious 2030 climate target ahead of a summit co-hosted by Britain and the UN on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

The summit, scheduled for Saturday next week (12 December), will look at building momentum towards the COP26 climate summit taking place in Glasgow next year.

It takes place just one day after an EU summit where European leaders are expected to agree on the bloc’s 2030 climate goal, an objective which has until now been held up by Poland.

The UK’s current emissions reduction target is 53%, compared with 1990 levels. The European Commission, for its part, proposed a 55% benchmark for the EU while the Parliament supports a 60% target.

Climate experts, meanwhile, say the UK’s climate goals are achievable, but not in line with the country’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Scotland has already increased its target, announcing a world-leading objective on Saturday to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 with an aim to reach net-zero by 2045.

And even though it is part of the UK, the Scottish government intends to publish an indicative nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

“While we are part of the UK, Scotland cannot formally submit an NDC. However, the Scottish Government is determined to engage with and raise global climate ambition ahead of welcoming the world to Glasgow next year,” said Roseanna Cunningham, Environment and Climate Change Secretary in Scotland.

Providing an indicative NDC and emphasising more ambition than the rest of the UK adds pressure on Westminster ahead of local elections in May, where the Scottish National Party will promote independence from Great Britain.

Scotland has already put pressure on Westminster by backing them into a corner over one-off payments to health workers to thank them for their efforts during the COVID-19 crisis.

The UK government announced a £12 billion 10 point plan for a green recovery from COVID-19 last month, but pressure is also coming from UK businesses to announce a substantial 2030 reduction target.

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Over 75 businesses, including Tesco, BT, ScottishPower, Sky, E.ON, EDF and Coca-Cola, signed a letter to Boris Johnson, highlighting the urgent need to set an ambitious emissions target in line with the Paris Agreement and the UK’s net zero by 2050 target.

“We believe there is an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate the right level of ambition to guide a green recovery and secure international momentum,” the letter read, calling for the government to align with businesses aiming for net zero, set out clear ambitions for resilience and apply this across UK policy.

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of ScottishPower, called for a 70% reduction target, saying the company was ready to drive the race to zero.

“If we want to release the full benefits of this transition and drive the uptake of new technology, support behaviour change and move at the pace climate science demands, then our ambition must be matched by an equally ambitious UK NDC target for 2030,” he added.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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