UK Sets GHG Emissions Tone for Europe: Cut 50% by 2027

The United Kingdom on Tuesday set a binding target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2027.

This makes the UK the first country in the world to declare a "legally binding" target on greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.

However, the commitment includes an escape clause, if the rest of the European Union doesn’t follow suit.

UK’s energy secretary Chris Huhne says the nation will review the progress of EU climate talks in 2014, to makes sure its  targets are in line with European neighbors.

Despite the stipulation, the move is a bold step in climate leadership. 

"This is an outstanding example of strong willingness to act despite difficult economic times," says Connie Hedegaard, the head of climate action at the European Commission. "With this decision, the UK seizes a huge economic and innovation opportunity that will make its economy more competitive in the future."

The binding target is the result of a 2008 law that sets a goal of cutting emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. That law requires legislators to set intermediate five-year carbon budgets. UK lawmakers accepted the recommendations of a climate change advisory committee in setting the limit for the period of 2023-2027.

Huhne also says the government is developing a package of economic measures to help energy-intensive industries remain competitive. They will be announced by the end of the year.

The EU is currently split over carbon cutting ambitions. The UK and a handful of other European countries want deeper cuts, while others (particularly in Eastern Europe where coal is a major energy source) are dragging their heals.

The EU’s official stance is that it will only increase its targets for cutting emissions if the US and China agree to a post-Kyoto deal for doing the same. 

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