Concern about climate change is growing to unprecedented levels and I can assure you that I recognise the importance and urgency of public debate on this issue.
The threat of global warming has never been more apparent, as highlighted by the sobering conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on global warming of 1.5°C. However, I am encouraged that we are also now witnessing an unstoppable momentum towards a more ambitious global response, most recently demonstrated by agreement on a ‘rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement late last year.
I am also proud of the UK’s world-leading role in tackling climate change and the transition to Clean Growth, with the UK being the first country to introduce legally binding long-term emissions targets under the landmark Climate Change Act in 2008. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation.
To continue this momentum, the Government published the Clean Growth Strategy in 2017, setting out its plans for meeting the UK’s carbon targets and the ambition to legislate for a net zero emissions target. This has been boosted by significant innovation funding made available through the Industrial Strategy.
At the same time, the ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan outlines the Government’s commitment to supporting and protecting the world’s most biodiverse forests, supporting sustainable agriculture and enhancing sustainability, and supporting zero-deforestation supply chains.
That said, we must do more, and the Government will do more, which is why it asked the Committee on Climate Change to advise on how and when we could achieve net zero. Their report published on the 2nd May sets out a path for the UK to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely. As I understand, Ministers will consider its advice carefully and aim to respond in a time frame that reflects the urgency of the issue at hand.