The UK Government has accepted "in full" the recommendations of its expert advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (“CCC”), and is legislating for a Sixth Carbon Budget that commits the UK to a 78% reduction in emissions (compared to 1990 levels) by 2035.  Also following the CCC’s recommendations, the target includes, for the first time, the UK’s share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.  

Of course, a legislative commitment on its own does not achieve the economic transformation that is required, and attention will now be on the anticipated policies and strategies that will be needed to meet this legal obligation, such as the cross-government Net Zero Strategy, the Heating and Building Strategy, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan and the Hydrogen Strategy.  

However, it would be wrong to think of this announcement as 'just a target'.  

This is a legal commitment, and demonstrates the power of the ratcheting mechanisms in the UK's Climate Change Act 2008.  As well as establishing the CCC, the Climate Change Act 2008 mandated that the UK government must set Carbon Budgets so that there are clear steps - and therefore accountability - towards the 2050 target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions.  

You can read our recent article on the impact of the Climate Change Act 2008 in the International Comparative Legal Guide to Environment and Climate Change Law 2021, here.

The announcement of the Sixth Carbon Budget will be positive news for investors and developers in the transition economy as it brings a wealth of opportunities in sectors such as energy, land use, the built environment and transport.  Our net zero services legal team, bringing together experts across all of these sectors, has been set up to help clients navigate the risks and capitalise on these opportunities.