UK Law On Global Warming

Jonathan Jones 04/06/2021 2 minute read

The UK has committed itself to a series of far-reaching environmental targets, many of which are legally binding through the Climate Change Act. It is the first major economy in the world to commit targets to enforcement by law.

Here is a summary of its stated objectives.

  • Cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. Net zero target by 2050. UK carbon emissions are already down by 51% according to Carbon Brief largely as a result to reduction in use of coal and green energy technology
  • For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions
  • UK is committed to the Paris Agreement temperature goal, which aims to limit global warming to below 2 degrees centigrade and pursue efforts toward 1.5 centigrade
  • New diesel and petrol cars and vans will no longer be sold in the UK from 2030; certain hybrids will be allowed until 2035
  • The UK is planning to plant 30,000 hectares of trees per year by 2025 in order to help it reach its net zero emissions target by 2050 – the vast majority of planting will take place in Scotland
  • The UK government is targeting zero avoidable waste by 2050 and plans to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042
  • All Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) will be banned by 2030 – stable but non-biodegradable man-made organic compounds used in many industrial processes – highly toxic they can enter the food chain and are often linked to cancers; when burnt dangerous substances are released
  • From 2025 all gas and oil boilers will no longer be installed in new homes – new low carbon alternatives will therefore be required

Obstacles to Change

Critics argue that are few plans currently in place which will enable the ambitious targets to limit the UK’s contribution to global warming to be met.

For example

Gas boilers currently heat 85% of British homes. It is unclear which technology will provide the best alternative to gas and what the cost implications will be. There are no plans to ban the use of boilers in existing homes.

According to the AutoCar website, electric vehicles only account for 5.5% of the total 1,384,601 vehicles on UK roads. However, that still represents a 168.7% year-on-year increase and some manufacturers will cease combustion engine production before the required cut-off date.

Auto Express says that “as of 4 January 2021, there were 20,775 public EV chargers of all types in the UK – up by a quarter in 2020 – of which 3,880 were rapid devices. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, 1,288 chargers were installed, including 350 rapid devices.” However, this equates to only 31 public chargers per 1000,000 people.

Nearly one third of Britain’s greenhouse emissions are produced by domestic central heating. There are around 25 million homes in the UK with 160,000 being added each year.

Increasing woodland in England to 12% cover by 2060 will involve planting 180,000 hectares by the end of 2042

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