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UK Government Commits To Net Zero Emissions By 2050

The UK will become the first major economy in the world to introduce a net zero emissions target in law. 

Theresa May might be on her way out of Downing Street but she is still introducing new legislation in her final days in office. This week, she announced that the UK would end its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

The UK will therefore, become the first major economy in the world to introduce a net zero emissions target in law. On 12 June, a statutory instrument will be laid in parliament, which will amend the Climate Change Act 2008.

However, the government acknowledged that to have a material impact, other nations need to follow suit. As a result, it has also set out plans for an assessment of the situation in five years to ensure other major economies are also making similarly ambitious targets and sticking to them.

Business Green pointed out that many countries have already adopted net zero targets, including Sweden, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Finland, while the likes of France and the wider EU are currently considering introducing a similar target.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth,” Mrs May asserted.

She stressed that inaction is “not an option” and said that although reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is an “ambitious target”, it’s essential that we do so to safeguard the future of our planet.

The precise direction of policy on climate change will be set out by future governments, although the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) believes the government’s clean growth strategy has laid “strong foundations” to deal with emissions across various sectors of the economy.

Emma Pinchbeck, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, commented that the UK has already demonstrated that it can create a better, as well as a greener, economy by focusing on reducing its impact on the planet.

However, she pointed out that there is still a lot of work to do if the country is to meet its ambitious targets.

“We need to make the best use of every technology in our toolbox, from onshore wind to wave and tidal power to energy efficiency to help fix dangerous climate change,” she asserted.

Ms Pinchbeck added: “We might be afraid of the impacts of climate change, but the UK’s world-class renewables industry, including our global lead in offshore wind, shows that we should not be afraid of investing in a green economy: the returns to the UK of this leadership on net zero will be huge.”

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, echoed Ms Pinchbeck’s sentiments. She commented that setting the legal target of net zero emissions by 2050 presents a “huge opportunity” to “increase our energy efficiency, improve our resilience and deliver a greener, healthier society”.

She added that we already know that investing in zero carbon technology and solutions is good for jobs and the economy as a whole, commenting: “It is cheaper for business, organisations and government to tackle climate change now than to manage its impacts in the future.”

This is a view that’s also supported by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Reacting to Mrs May’s announcement, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE, CBI director-general, said that businesses in the UK “stand squarely behind” the commitment to achieve this emissions target.

Dame Fairbairn called for this announcement to be followed up with “a commitment to long-term policies that support decarbonisation across the economy”.

One area that is likely to come increasingly into the spotlight is renewable energy. The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind, and there is only going to be a greater focus on this and other renewable energy technology moving forward.

Business Green noted that the CCC report that has prompted the government to take action calls for revisions on some policy areas. For instance, sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles will need to be banned by 2035, rather than the current 2040 target. A key area of decarbonisation is the energy sector, with coal and gas needing to be phased out.

These fuels, including shale gas, need to be taken out of the UK’s energy mix within the next 25 to 30 years “unless nascent carbon capture technologies are scaled up significantly”, the news provider reported.

Organisations operating in the offshore wind sector can potentially expect to see further business opportunities, however. Increasing the amount of energy generated in this way will be one target, as will continuing to improve the efficiency of the technology we use to capture and harness wind energy.

If the sector continues to grow, this, in turn, will lead to a need for more skilled professionals who can carry out work safely in the sector. Ensuring that your business maintaining its GWO training certifications for employees who attend offshore wind sites to ensure your workforce maintains their accreditations and competencies.

Offshorewind.biz recently reported that the new Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub has received £4 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to support the research it’s carrying out in the area of offshore renewable energy.

This money is in addition to the £5 million already awarded to the hub. The intention is that the new £4 million can be used to provide grants of up to £100,000 that can be used to complement existing research, fill gaps or encourage cross-cutting activities. The latter will help ensure that the research being carried out here will be shared with other industries where appropriate.

The Supergen ORE Hub already brings together academics and industrial and policy stakeholders. There are also plans to invest further funds in the hub to help it create a database that lists all the offshore renewable research being carried out at universities around the UK.

Offshore wind isn’t the only focus either. The hub also explores tidal and wave energy generation. Universities throughout the UK are involved in the hub, including the University of Aberdeen, the University of Hull, the University of Manchester, the University of Oxford and the University of Plymouth.

In addition to searching for new and more efficient ways to harness offshore energy, the hub also wants to make sure that early career researchers are supported and can learn from those with more experience in the field.

As a result, it has set up a network designed to connect early career researchers with senior researchers who can support them as they learn and develop their skills. These senior researchers are based all over the world, not just in the UK, ensuring that we stay at the leading edge of international developments in the field.

So far, nearly 100 early career researchers have signed up to be part of this network and take advantage of the opportunity to connect with their peers around the world.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), pointed out that within the UK almost 400,000 people are already working in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains.

“Through our modern industrial strategy we’re investing in clean growth to ensure we reap the rewards and create two million high-quality jobs by 2030,” he added.

That will be a large number of people who need training in various aspects related to the offshore wind and energy sectors, as well as other elements of clean growth. Industries including shipping and aviation also fall under the new targets, despite not officially being part of existing emissions reduction targets.