Climate change—emissions targets, carbon budgets and net zero

The following Environment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Climate change—emissions targets, carbon budgets and net zero
  • Climate Change Act—the 2050 target
  • Interim targets
  • Role of the Climate Change Committee
  • International aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions
  • Carbon budgets
  • Government duties relating to carbon budgets
  • UK progress in reducing emissions
  • Statistical reports
  • CCC progress reports
  • More...

Climate change—emissions targets, carbon budgets and net zero

Climate Change Act—the 2050 target

Under the Climate Change Act 2008 (CCA 2008), as amended by the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, SI 2019/1056, the UK has a statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 100% on 1990 levels or net zero by 2050.

Wales and Scotland also have national legislation setting Welsh and Scottish targets. For more information, see: Devolved administrations section below.

The initial 2050 target set by the CCA 2008 was a reduction of at least 80% from 1990 levels. In fact the Climate Change Bill initially proposed a target of a 60% reduction in emissions, but this was amended following scientific evidence.

Interim targets

In December 2020, a 68% reduction in GHG emissions on 1990 levels by 2030 was announced. The UK’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement reflects this target, although the target does not include emissions from international aviation and shipping. For more information on the UK’s international obligations and the Paris Agreement, see: UK’s international climate change obligations section below.

In April 2021, the UK announced that it would enshrine a new target into law to reduce GHG emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035. This target now forms part of the sixth carbon budget.

Role of the Climate Change Committee

CCA 2008, s 2 established

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