Science

Is the UK’s target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 possible?

Government debates CO2 emissions
The UK's target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 has previously faced criticism for being an "ambitious goal". Source: Andrew Parsons/ No10 Downing Street (via Flickr).
In line with Climate Change Committee's (CCC) sixth carbon budget recommendation, the UK government announced a new emissions target back in April and intends to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 (compared against levels seen in 1990).

By Ruhaab Khalid | Contributor

Whilst this target has been labelled by critics as an “ambitious” endeavour, it does set a precedent by incorporating and acknowledging the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. Not only does the target show coherence with the Paris Agreement temperature goal restriction of 1.5°C, but it also drives the UK more than three quarters closer to its objective of net-zero by 2050.  

By firmly setting out this resounding legally binding objective, the UK has expressed its desire to raise the bar against climate change – An aspect that the UK, as a leading economy, has previously faced criticism for.  

With climate-related disasters escalating around the world, there is no doubt that this newly established target raises hopes for the future. Whether the target can realistically be obtained, however, remains an unanswered question.  

This, to some extent, was reflected by Professor Piers Forster, the Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate: 

“There is cause for optimism in these increasingly ambitious net-zero targets. But only on one condition: that these long-term promises are matched with short-term action.” 

To coincide with the 2035 target, the government has set out a new framework to reduce its contribution to climate change, including the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy publication, estimated to cut emissions by two-thirds in just 15 years.  

Alongside this, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for the green industrial revolution will assist the UK on its journey to eliminate its causes of climate change by 2050.  

The UK has additionally emerged as the first G7 country to settle to a revolutionary North Sea Transition Deal, helping the gas and oil industry adapt to renewable energy sources. The ‘Together for Our Planet Campaign’ aims to unite civil society, businesses, groups, and the general public against climate change. 

In spite of this, however, many argue that more climate-conscious initiatives are needed.  

As the Climate Change Committee asserts, current plans still fall “a long way short” of what is required, the efforts need to be scaled up. The main obstacle in reaching the intended carbon neutrality is the policy gap between where the UK is heading and where it has envisioned to be.  The gap can be filled by presenting a unified policy for transportation, agriculture, electricity, construction, manufacturing, energy, etc. 

It has been raised that, in the construction sector specifically, installing low-carbon heating technologies and constructing greenhouses can be a credible strategy for cutting emissions by 2035.  

The progression of climate change in the transport sector can also be reduced by rolling out 400,000 charging stations to make at least 50 percent of the new cars battery-powered – For reference, domestic transport was reported to be responsible for emitting the equivalent of 122 million tonnes of carbon dioxide back in 2019.  

Attaining the target demands both technological revolution and mindset revolution. The latter refers to observing societal changes, such as reducing plane and car travel and changing eating habits. As research confirms that each UK resident will have to reduce dairy and meat consumption by at least 10 percent to provide ample land for restoring carbon soaking wetlands and forests. 

As many critics have raised, a national and collaborative approach urgently needs to be adopted by the UK in order to manage our impact on climate change and to reach this newly established emissions target.  

Science and Technology

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