UK sets 2032 climate goal, allays ambition fears

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain on Thursday set a target to reduce emissions by 57 percent by 2032, allaying fears the country’s climate ambitions would become one of the first casualties of last week’s Brexit vote.

Smog surrounds The Shard, western Europe's tallest building, and St Paul's Cathedral in London April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The target, based on 1990 levels, was suggested last year by a government advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, as a part of Britain’s fifth carbon budget (2028-2032).

“Setting long-term targets to reduce emissions is a fundamental part of building a secure, affordable and clean energy infrastructure system,” said Britain’s energy and climate minister Amber Rudd.

“The UK remains committed to playing its part in tackling climate change,” she said.

By 2050, Britain has a legally binding target to cut emissions by 80 percent based on 1990 levels.

“After the huge confusion following the Brexit vote, we welcome the certainty this decision gives. Investors will now know that the UK is a place where low carbon investment can flourish,” said Friends of the Earth senior climate campaigner Simon Bullock.

Britain needs to cut the amount of electricity it generates using fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, which provided around 50 percent of the country’s electricity in 2015.

Power firms welcomed the announcement, but said the government would need to act to ensure enough low-carbon power generation is built.

“It is vital that businesses receive all the support they need from government and industry to... enable them to make the necessary changes to their operations as we work towards a greener UK,” said David Reed, head of business solutions at npower, the British subsidiary of German utility <RWE RWEG.DE.>

The government plans to close coal-fired power plants by 2025 to help to meet its environmental targets but a lack of incentives to invest in replacement plants have led to concerns about potential power shortages.

The carbon budget still needs to be formally adopted by Parliament before it can become law.

Editing by David Goodman and Jason Neely