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By Earl Russell
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This is not the time to water down our green commitments

4 min read

Chair of the UK government’s recent Net Zero Review and former energy minister, Chris Skidmore MP, explains how the Westminster Climate Declaration can keep the UK at the forefront of global climate leadership.

When the United Kingdom became the first G7 country to legally commit to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we set the standard of true climate leadership. This proud commitment was only possible because all sides of the political spectrum worked together to ensure the UK did its part in mitigating the worst of climate change. This climate leadership has delivered documentable change: our carbon dioxide emissions over the past 20 years have been reduced by nearly 50 per cent when compared to 1990 levels. Internationally, we have encouraged over 90 per cent of the world’s GDP to be covered by net-zero targets and legal obligations.

Now is the vital moment to double down on the good work we have already done to drive the transition forward. Already the green sector provides the UK economy with over half a million domestic jobs. Analysis from the University of Oxford, detailed in the Net Zero Review report, shows a potential two per cent additional growth in GDP, saving families money on household bills. On the other hand, delaying our net-zero transition could lead to UK debt increasing by 23 per cent of GDP by 2050, as many of the jobs and innovative technologies involved in the green transition move to foreign nations.

Recently, there were concerns about the government watering down or even U-turning on our net-zero concerns, rather than doubling down on the potential benefits of the transition. To be clear, doing so now would be disastrous, as we would not only fail in our medium term 2030 goals but be forced to completely abandon our 2050 obligations. Now is the time to lean into the transition, and it is the responsibility of the government to both get out of the way of the private sector, who are already transitioning, and to provide the legislative framework for companies to feel confident in investing in their own transitions. The overriding message of the independent review was to challenge any government to deliver legislative clarity, certainty and consistency across the net-zero space.

This year will mark seven years since the Paris Agreement when 196 countries committed to reducing their emissions and working together to adapt to the impacts of climate change. With the goal to keep the rise in global average temperature limited to 1.5°C and well below 2°C, the window for achieving our Paris Agreement obligations is closing. A major stocktake will be in December when COP28 will take place in Dubai, marking seven years until we reach the important 2030 target, when we must reduce global emissions by nearly 50 per cent.

This was why, in September, I announced the Westminster Climate Declaration, bringing together Members of Parliament to a shared purpose of maintaining our global climate leadership. Comprising of 16 articles, the Westminster Climate Declaration seeks to double down on our legal and global commitments to the net-zero transition, acting on the recommendations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Climate Change Committee. Additionally, the declaration seeks to continue galvanising the phase out of outdated energy sources, such as fossil fuels, in favour of cheaper solar and wind power while reducing energy demand and improving efficiency, both of which will reduce bills in a time of energy price spikes.

The UK must continue to lead from the front in addressing the most pressing and serious problem we have faced as a species.

Action on climate change will require us to make bold decisions which will benefit us in both the medium and long term. The UK must continue to lead from the front in addressing the most pressing and serious problem we have faced as a species.

Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP was the former energy minister who was responsible for signing net-zero into law. Recently, he was the independent chair of the Net Zero Review. His book, Mission Zero will be published by Biteback on 28 November

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