UK Targets 80% Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Despite Brexit

The United Kingdom government has set in place new guidelines to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by 57% by 2030, a benchmark on the road to the eventual goal of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

“Setting long-term targets to reduce our emissions is a fundamental part of building a secure, affordable and clean energy infrastructure system that our families and business can rely on, and that is fit for the 21st century,” said U.K. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd.

“The U.K. remains committed to playing its part in tackling climate change to ensure our long-term economic security and prosperity,” Rudd added.

The announcement came not long after the Brexit referendum called into question the U.K.’s ability to remain on top of its environmental commitments without the support of programs or initiatives from the European Union.

“Today’s announcement is especially welcome given the uncertainty caused by last week’s referendum,” said Hugh McNeal, chief executive of RenewableUK. “It’s a clear signal the UK will continue to show bold leadership on carbon reduction. This will allow investment to continue to flow into renewable energy projects throughout the U.K.”

Others, however, remain less convinced. The Guardian reports that, despite the mandated targets, the U.K. has no real policies in place to achieve such ambitious numbers.

Most of the successful reductions in carbon emissions to date are the result of relying on renewable energy sources instead of coal, but little change has been noted in the actual usage of energy itself.

Matthew Bell, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, says more needs to be done at the consumer and infrastructure level, such as better-insulated housing or the use of public transportation like buses, which can be used to replace 55 vehicles on the road.

“What is undoubtedly the case is that a lot of the mechanisms we were using to tackle climate change were linked to the EU, like the EU emissions trading scheme that governs the power sector and heavy industry and emissions standards for vehicles,” Bell said. “That is now thrown into doubt, and those were relatively efficient ways of trying to achieve emissions reductions.”

“So the question is, post-Brexit,” Bell continued, “How do we ensure that we continue to be able to pursue climate change policies as efficiently as possible? That is certainly an added complexity we did not have before.”

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