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The government has committed to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

It today (12 June) updated the 2008 Climate Change Act, which previously aimed for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 levels.

This new law makes the UK the first major country to propose this target, with other countries expected to follow suit.

The move follows recommendations last month from the Committee on Climate Change, which said the UK needed to act more swiftly in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Prime minister Theresa May said: “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.

“Whilst it will be for future governments to determine the precise direction of future climate policy, the Committee on Climate Change acknowledge that we have laid strong foundations through our Clean Growth Strategy and taken action to tackle climate change across key sectors of the economy identified by the report.”

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, said: “We want to continue our global leadership and that’s why we are introducing a legally binding net zero target to end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050.”

The government said the UK is already a hub for clean growth and innovation, with low carbon technology and clean energy contributing £44.5bn to the economy every year.

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Responding to the announcement, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership MD Andy Eastlake said it was an important moment in terms of national efforts to tackle climate change and one with international significance.

"But it's vital that targets are backed by robust, practical and fair policies that can deliver the objectives. Climate change cannot be an optional extra, it must be front and centre when we're developing policies in transport, as well as other key areas of the economy.

"Transport is one of the most challenging areas for decarbonisation and has, so far, proved one of the most intractable.

"There are real signs of progress - in road transport at least - but much more must be done by government and all other key stakeholders to ramp up progress and help ensure that the UK is, at least, amongst countries leading the world into a new green, clean industrial revolution.”