On 2 May 2019, the UK's Committee on Climate Change ("CCC") recommended that Parliament legislate, without delay, to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions to "net-zero" by 2050. The CCC is the UK Government's chief climate change advisory body, and its previous recommendations have been implemented. It is possible that the new target could be enacted through legislation by late 2019 or early 2020.

The CCC has advised that to implement and realise the net-zero target, the UK Government would need to introduce new policies across many sectors of the economy. Specifically, the CCC has stated that Government would have to facilitate widespread adoption of low carbon power, modernise the approach to heating buildings, scale up carbon capture and storage, require all new cars to be electric by 2035, and arrange for the equivalent of 1.5 billion trees to be planted. The CCC further emphasised that, based on its latest forecasts, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 would cost no more than that for reaching the UK's current target, agreed in 2008, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050: 1-2% of GDP.

The CCC's recommendation was made in light of the "Paris Agreement" (agreed under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the steps necessary to keep global warming below 1.5°C, and technological advances and reduced costs associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the CCC's view, the UK is a global leader in efforts to address climate change, and enacting a target of net-zero by 2050 as soon as possible could spur similar action in other countries.

Further details can be found in our full briefing on the CCC's report. The briefing provides an overview of the UK's domestic climate change regime, the impact of developments in the international climate change regime and climate change science on the UK's obligations, the basis of the net-zero emissions recommendation and the possible implications for businesses and industry of its enactment into law.

WilmerHale's Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources practice and its International Arbitration practice will continue to monitor and can advise on developments related to the Climate Change Act and the associated implications for businesses.

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