Theresa May solidified a legacy in the weeks leading up to her resignation as prime minister by enshrining in law a commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, making Britain the first major economy to do so.
The compromise, which was carried out on Wednesday on an amendment to the Climate Change Act laid down in parliament, will make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialized nations to legislate for 'zero' carbon emissions. Downing Street said.
Environmental groups welcomed the goal, but expressed disappointment that the plan would allow the UK to achieve it in part through international carbon credits, something Greenpeace said would "shift the burden to developing nations." .
Last week Downing Street dismissed Chancellor Philip Hammond's claims that such a target would cost £ 1 trillion and therefore could require cuts in utility bills.
With May's departure at the end of the month and as soon as her successor is chosen, she will step up efforts in policy areas marginalized by Brexit, including new spending commitments, efforts to tackle modern slavery and the environment.
The 2050 target, in an amendment that is presented as a legal instrument, meaning it does not require a vote of parliamentarians, will be one of the most ambitious goals set by a major polluting nation.
France proposed legislation on net zero emissions this year, while some smaller countries have gone through dates before 2050, such as Finland (2035) and Norway (2030), although the latter allows the purchase of carbon offsets.
While the date of 2050 was recommended by the official UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), May rejected their recommendation on international carbon credits, so a country can pay for cuts elsewhere instead of national emissions. John Gummer, the president of CCC, said last month that it was "essential" that such credits go unused.
Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, could have said the goal was "a great moment for everyone in the climate movement" and that May's legacy could be proud of.
However, he said that “as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, it is right that the UK is the world's first major economy to commit to fully ending its contribution to climate change, but trying to shift the burden on nations in development through international carbon credits undermines that commitment ”, adding:“ This type of compensation has a history of failure and, according to government advisers, is not profitable ”.
Theresa May said: “This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a cleaner and greener form of growth. Waiting is not an option. "Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious goal, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations."
The plan was endorsed by CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn, who said such efforts "can boost UK competitiveness and ensure long-term prosperity", adding: "Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in technologies with low carbon content, and it is vital that there is coordination between governments in the policies and regulations necessary to offer a clean future ”.
Downing Street last week dismissed Hammond's warnings, revealed in a leaked letter, saying the alleged £ 1bn figure ignored both the economic benefits of the action and the costs of doing nothing.
A Treasury source said Hammond fully backed the zero-carbon goal by 2050, but had lobbied for the plan to cost the full cost to ensure it didn't negatively affect other areas of public spending.
May rushed through the legislation with an eye on her legacy after being forced out of office before doing whatever she wanted in terms of domestic politics.
Downing Street sources said that implementing the target before she leaves office in a few weeks was extremely important to May, who reminded her colleagues in the Cabinet Tuesday morning that she wanted them to make sure she was not they will forget to deal with the aftermath of Grenfell Tower after he left office.