By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent
The Government has been urged to strengthen UK climate targets and action, after a stark warning from a UN report on the need for deep emissions cuts.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows unprecedented changes, including halving carbon by 2030 and bringing it to net zero, are needed to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
But doing so will reduce the severity of climate impacts, ranging from extreme weather to rising seas.
In the UK, where existing legal targets require 80% cuts in emissions by 2050, the Government is under pressure to strengthen action on climate change.
Bishop Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, the Church of England’s lead on the environment, said “an ambitious UK Government would seek to be a world leader by committing to a target of net zero emissions by 2050”.
And he warned: “The evidence published by the IPCC today shows that the risk level of climate change is now critical.
“Ours is the first generation to know and understand this and probably the last to be able to do something meaningful towards climate justice.”
Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group for sustainability, said major economies needed to adopt net zero emissions target in line with the findings of the report.
The study showed there were “compelling” environmental, economic and social benefits to limiting temperature increases to 1.5C, he said.
“Whilst achieving such a target will require challenging emission cuts across the economy, important progress has already been made and an increase in ambition would unlock a significant innovation and investment opportunity.”
Steve Waygood, from Aviva Investors, said it was estimated that, without action, climate change would cost the global economy 43 trillion US dollars (£33 trillion) in today’s prices.
“This is not a risk we can afford to take,” he said.
“The long term negative financial consequences of climate change are far, far greater than the short term financial risks of transitioning to the Paris Agreement.”
Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, said the report should “act as a rallying cry for governments around the world to innovate, invest, and raise ambition to avert catastrophic climate change”.
And she said: “The UK has already shown carbon abatement and prosperity can go hand in hand, and we lead the world in clean growth – slashing emissions by more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy ahead of the G7.”
But shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said the Government was “way off course” to meet existing climate targets and had pushed fracking for shale gas, which is set to go ahead in the UK this week.
And she said: “Today’s report by the IPCC makes clear that avoiding dangerous climate change will require a transformational effort, and that is precisely what Labour is offering – a plan to rapidly decarbonise our energy system as part of a green jobs revolution, and a long term target of net zero emissions before 2050.”
Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven said: “Every decision made by our government will have serious impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“No longer can the UK government ignore the consequences of starting a new fracking industry, expanding aviation or failing to phase out polluting cars and deal with energy-wasting homes.
“Now is the time for ambitious action. We need a serious plan to get off all fossil fuels, and fast.”
Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser on climate change at WWF, said: “We have the targets, we have the solutions, and the difference between impossible and possible is political leadership.
“WWF calls on leaders to accelerate climate action immediately.”
The Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change’s chief executive Chris Stark said the organisation welcomed the report and would study it carefully.
“Already it’s clear, however, that the window to keep global temperatures below the 1.5C threshold is narrowing rapidly,” he said.
He said the CCC would “now look forward to a formal request from UK ministers” to begin the review of whether the UK’s legal targets to cut emissions are in line with the Paris Agreement – which could lead to setting a net-zero goal for the UK.