How the UK’s net zero pledges compare to other decarbonising countries

The expected loosening of the UK’s climate ambition brings it more into line with other nations in transport but behind in home heating.

Danny Halpin
Wednesday 20 September 2023 14:11 BST
The Prime Minister is expected to say that some new gas boilers will be allowed after 2035 (Yui Mok/PA)
The Prime Minister is expected to say that some new gas boilers will be allowed after 2035 (Yui Mok/PA)

Some of the Government’s key climate pledges are expected to be watered down or delayed in an upcoming speech by the Prime Minister, who is likely to praise the UK’s record on decarbonisation.

Carbon emissions have fallen by 42% since 1990, which was largely the result of removing coal from the power sector.

More difficult emissions savings lie in other sectors such as transport, aviation and heating buildings, with countries beginning to race each other to develop green industries.

More than 70 countries including the UK, US, EU and China have targets to reach net zero around the middle of the century after the Paris Agreement laid out how to avert the worst of climate disaster.

Global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and become net zero by 2050 if the Earth’s climate is to stabilise below 1.5C compared to industrial levels.

The Earth has already warmed by 1.2C since the late 1800s, with much of that occurring in the last 50 years.

In a leak to the BBC, the Prime Minister is said to want to delay the ban of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, require that only 80% of gas boilers be phased out by 2035 instead of 100%, scrap plans to make homes more energy efficient and delay a ban on off-grid oil boilers from 2026 to 2035.

Experts have warned that achieving net zero requires deep emissions cuts this decade and that they cannot just be cut at the last minute.

Delaying emissions cuts beyond 2030 in some sectors means deeper cuts will have to be found elsewhere, for which the Government does not have credible plans, its advisors in the Climate Change Committee have said.

The International Energy Agency has said gas boilers worldwide need to start being phased out from 2025, though few countries have set this as a target.

Ireland and Germany have phase-out dates of 2025, the Netherlands 2026 and the rest of the EU is expected to follow a proposed directive and phase out from 2029.

The US does not have a phase-out date for gas boilers but has proposed a law to allow only those that are more efficient to be installed from 2029, while local officials in the San Francisco Bay area have voted to phase out new gas boilers and water heaters by 2027.

The US, EU and China all have targets of stopping the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, aligning with what Rishi Sunak is expected to announce, though the UK does not have the same support for the industry as these other countries.

China is the world leader in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, having produced more than six million last year after giving the industry subsidies worth over £46 billion between 2016 and 2022.

Since the US introduced the Inflation Reduction Act, drivers there are able to claim a tax credit subsidy of 7,500 dollars (£6,000) towards an EV as long as its final assembly was in North America, while the US Government is offering two billion dollars (£1.6 billion) in grants to manufacturers.

The EU has agreed rules that would see EV charge points installed every 60km along the continent’s main highways from 2025 onwards while offering tax breaks for manufacturers and thousands of euros in subsidies for buyers.

The RAC estimates there to be around 850,000 EVs on UK roads while grants of £350 are available to some drivers to install chargers at their home or workplace and there are grants for up to £2,500 for wheelchair accessible EVs, motorcycles or small vans, though none available for cars.

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