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May sets 'net zero' carbon emission target as she eyes a Downing Street legacy

Ben Gartside
·Reporter
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli (not pictured) ahead of bilateral talks at 10 Downing Street on 11 June, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street on 11 June, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to make the UK ‘net zero’ in carbon emissions by 2050, with legislation being brought on Wednesday to make May’s promise legally binding.

The move extends upon a previous government target to reduce climate pollution by 80% by 2050, which was agreed by MPs under former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The promise will mean further use of green electricity, a move away from diesel cars and gas boilers, and a wholesale change to the UK’s approach to fuel.

Critics of the approach include Chancellor Phillip Hammond, after a letter leaked from the Treasury showed a potential trillion pound cost of the move.

Many in Westminster see the promise as May eying a legacy upon her exit from Downing Street, given her inability to pass a Brexit Deal after three attempts in the Commons.

READ MORE: Top UK firms warn Tory no-deal Brexit posturing is costing jobs

Commenting on the announcement, May said: "As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change.

"We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions. Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children.

"This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth. Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations."

However, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Business and International Trade Bill Esterson criticised the Government’s previous credentials on the environment.

Esterson exclusively told Yahoo: “This is a welcome target but this government have a terrible track record matching ambitions to actions.

The Conservatives have failed to support world leading tidal, solar and wind industries when 99.4% of UK export finance in the energy sector goes on fossil fuels it is difficult to take their commitment seriously.

Labour declared an environment and climate emergency and will put climate obligations at the heart of our programme in Government.”