Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week announced that the UK will aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% of what they were in 1990 by the year 2030.
He urged other world leaders to follow his example at a virtual climate summit, which is being held on 12 December. He said, "We have proven we can reduce our emissions and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process – uniting businesses, academics, NGOs and local communities in a common goal to go further and faster to tackle climate change....the UK is urging world leaders to bring forward their own ambitious plans to cut emissions and set net zero targets."
Research by the London School of Economics (LSE) has shown that it is possible for UK emissions to be cut by 72%. This would involve new measures such as removing gas-guzzling SUVs from the roads, having many more homes switching to low carbon heating and a new tax being imposed on frequent fliers. A coalition of environmental and poverty campaigners has urged a 75% emissions cut by 2030.
The UK will jointly hold the presidency of next year's UN climate conference, known as COP26, with Italy. Mr Johnson's 68% emissions reduction target represents the UK's nationally determined contribution (NDC) towards meeting the Paris Agreement, which was formally signed in 2016. It is hoped that ambitious targets like this will encourage other world leaders to make similar commitments.
However, both environmental groups and businesses are concerned about how these targets can translate into real emissions cuts. At the moment, planned emissions cuts fall well short of the targets. Last month's 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution, as laid out by Mr Johnson has been criticised for being inadequately funded and not going far enough. Further policies to supplement the 10 point plan are thought to be in development and will be announced before the end of 2020, but whether these will go far enough to take us closer to the 68% emissions reduction remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, US President-elect Joe Biden is planning for the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement when he takes office in January 2021. The US formally withdrew from the Paris Agreement on 4 November 2020, after President Trump began the process of leaving the Agreement back in June of 2017. And leaders from EU countries are planning to agree to commit to a 55% emissions cut by 2030 for the EU as a whole.