The prime minister will today commit the UK to the toughest climate change target of any major economy, overruling the chancellor in the process.
Theresa May will lay a statutory instrument in parliament amending the Climate Change Act 2008 to require the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050.
The existing target is an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 but the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised the government last month to increase the target to net zero to help to meet the Paris climate agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Net zero means that remaining emissions would be balanced by technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Last month Philip Hammond warned Mrs May that achieving a net-zero target would cost more than £1 trillion by 2050 and could make some key industries uncompetitive.
In a leaked letter he said that the Treasury should review the costs and effects of the target before the government committed to it. He said that the cost was likely to mean less money for the NHS, schools and police.
However, Mrs May is determined to make a bold commitment on climate change part of her legacy. Mr Hammond won one concession: Mrs May has agreed that the UK “will conduct a further assessment within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action”. This opens up the possibility that the UK could cut emissions more slowly if other countries failed to match its efforts.