Climate campaigners say the announcement doesn’t go far enough (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Campaigners have warned the UK’s new target to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 does not go far enough, as they called for swift action to tackle the climate crisis.

But business leaders welcomed the “ambitious” move, which they said would help unlock investment and sent a clear signal of the need to shift to a low carbon economy.

The Government has unveiled a target to cut UK emissions by at least 68% on 1990 levels by 2030, for its new national climate plan, or nationally determined contribution (NDC), under the global Paris Agreement on climate change.

The move comes ahead of a summit on December 12 aimed at increasing countries’ ambition on cutting greenhouse gases to meet the goals of the Paris deal to prevent dangerous global warming, which the UK is co-hosting.

And the Government hopes it will demonstrate leadership in the run-up to crucial United Nations “Cop26” climate talks being held in Glasgow next November after they were delayed from 2020 by the pandemic.

Mr Johnson's target is seen as ambitious by business but conservative by campaigners
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Ed Matthew, from the Climate Coalition of environmental, social, faith and community organisations and aid agencies, said the 68% was a “step up in ambition” and in line with the UK’s legal target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

But he said: “This is important progress but not sufficient. A more ambitious cut is both feasible and necessary to keep us safe and reflect our massive historic carbon emissions.

“We must remember too that the climate will not respond to targets, it will respond to carbon cuts. It is action that counts.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said: “The Prime Minister is right to have set one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world.

“But given the urgency of the climate crisis and the rapid advances in zero carbon solutions, ambition can be pushed even higher over the next decade.”

He added: “The Government must now increase the action needed to cut emissions from our homes, roads, farms and power sources in the UK.”

Friends of the Earth warned the Government was investing in oil and gas projects abroad, cutting aid and investing in expensive and polluting road-building in the UK.

Climate campaigner Rachel Kennerley, said: “It’s meaningless to set targets for 10 years in the future without action to deliver cuts now,” and called for cuts to emissions at home, and end to financing oil and gas projects and a boost to investment in a shift to clean energy worldwide.

Carbon emissions are falling but scientists say not fast enough
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, said: “Of course we know we could go even further, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

“We now need the policies in place to achieve this target, if we’re going to lead and inspire the whole world to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement.”

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at business group the CBI said: “At a time when the eyes of the world will be on the UK as host of the forthcoming Cop26 Summit, the commitment to this extremely ambitious target is hugely welcome and puts Britain front and centre as a leader in tackling the climate crisis.

“While delivering a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030 undoubtedly represents a real stretch, there is no doubt that business is up for the challenge as we build back better and greener following the pandemic.”

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Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of energy firm SSE, said the 2030 goal was among the most ambitious in the world.

“This kind of bold and decisive policy-making will help unlock the investment needed to deliver on our net zero ambitions, tackle climate change and help spur a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

And Andy Wales, chief digital impact and sustainability officer at BT Group said: “We welcome today’s announcement by the UK Government, which sets ambitious targets and sends a clear signal that we need to transition to a low-carbon economy.

“It’s encouraging to see the UK using its presidency of the G7 and Cop26 to demonstrate leadership on climate action and inspire others to raise their ambitions.”

Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and key architect of the landmark Paris Agreement, said the commitment from Prime Minister Boris Johnson would underpin efforts to seek more ambitious action from other countries in the run-up to the Cop26 talks.

“Of course it will be necessary to put in place the detailed plans to deliver on this commitment with investments in areas ranging from greener steel production to farming and clean heating technologies, but other countries can draw confidence from Britain’s leadership and example in setting a 2030 target consistent with net zero.

“International attention now turns to the United States, China and other major economies to take similar steps by Cop26,” she said.