COP26: UK’s 2050 net zero target is ‘too far away’, PM’s spokesperson admits

11th August 2021 by Emma Goring

The UK government has pledged to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 and to keep temperature rises below 1.5C.

The UK’s target of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 is “too far away” to be the sole focus of attention, the government’s spokesperson for COP26 has said.

Allegra Stratton said the “science is clear” that the country must change its carbon emission output “right now” which is why the government has also set targets for emissions cuts by 2030.

These include commitments enshrined in law to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution and to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035.

The UK is preparing to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in less than 100 days.

COP26, the United Nations climate change conference, will take place between 31 October and 12 November.

The UK government hopes to use the event to encourage other countries to commit more money to tackling climate change, to join in pledging to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 and to keep temperature rises below 1.5C.

But the government’s COP26 spokesperson told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that there is “a very clear job to do to make sure we grip runaway climate change” in the lead up to that 2050 date.

“What I’m aware of is right now that we have a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, we have FTSE 100 companies pledging to go net zero and not only that, but we also have the NHS and hospitals around the country saying you know what, we’ll have a go as well,” Ms Stratton said.

“And I feel at the point at which we can all of us see that we’re not doing it on our own, every part of society is moving in tandem towards this net zero in 2050…. but let’s be honest, that’s too far away.

“Net zero is the glide path, what we have to be doing more quickly – the science is clear, I am sure Professor Hall told you – we have to be changing our carbon emissions output right now so that we can stop temperature increase by 2030.”

President of the UN COP26 climate summit Alok Sharma has said the world must be put on a path to reaching net zero by 2050 if the goal of keeping global temperature increases below 1.5C is to be kept within reach.

The UK’s role as host will be pivotal in the discussions, as the event is seen as one of the final chances to try and get countries onside to meet the goal.

Speaking last week, Mr Sharma said the heavy rainfall and severe flooding witnessed in the UK and elsewhere around the world emphasises the urgent need to tackle climate change.

The COP26 president said the widespread and torrential rain “on our own doorstep” should act as “a sober reminder” that action is needed ahead of the Glasgow summit in November.

It comes as the UK was battered by nearly a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours last weekend.

Homes, roads and underground stations were flooded in the south of England and one hospital had to cancel surgery procedures due to the water affecting its power supply.

The UK is not the only nation to have been hit by heavy rainfall recently.

Belgium was hit by floods for the second time in just over a week in July.

In Dinant, in the Walloon region, heavy rainfall washed away cars, leaving them strewn across the town.

More than 210 people died in floods in western Europe last month, with most of the casualties in Belgium and Germany.

The cost of recovery is expected to be billions of euros.

A spokesperson for No 10 said the government has nothing to add to Ms Stratton’s comments.