In December 2020 the UK Government announced its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Agreement – a target to reduce UK emissions by at least 68% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Setting pace to this target, less than five months later the Government announced that it will enshrine in law the “world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels”.

Leaders’ Climate Summit

The latest announcement came in advance of the White House Leaders’ Summit on Climate that took place on 22 and 23 April 2021, where leaders from across the world came together to discuss and outline their countries’ commitments to climate change.

Here we look at  some of the emissions targets that have been announced over the last week following the summit.


The UK Government’s 78% target, while welcomed by some, has been met with criticism from Members of Parliament, climate action groups and others, who say the Government has committed to ambitious targets without the necessary policies or actions to see them through. Recent policy announcements include the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution (see our posts on each of the points), and commitments in the 2021 Budget aimed at reducing emissions and addressing climate change (see our post on the Budget). The introduction of these policy commitments and their impact on reducing the UK’s emissions is yet to be seen.

A notable feature of the Government’s announcement is that the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget will, for the first time, incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions. As noted in our post on Point 6 of the Government’s Ten Point Plan – Jet Zero and Green Ships – the Paris Agreement does not directly include emissions from international aviation and shipping, leaving the regulation of these sectors to individual countries.

It remains to be seen, once the 78% target is enshrined in law in June 2021, what further policies are announced and actions are taken by the Government in order to achieve the 68% and 78% by 2030 and 2035, respectively.


President Biden has committed to cut emissions by 50%-52% of 2005 levels by 2030. This is the first climate commitment by the US since the Trump Administration pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement.

By committing to reduce emissions against 2005 levels, reports suggest that the US targets will have a greater impact on reduction in world emissions resulting in an overall reduction of 15% of global emissions, as opposed to the UK’s 2% reduction of global emissions.[1]


The EU, like the UK, has passed legislation committing to a reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels. A 55% reduction target has been set by the EU to take place by 2030, with  a target of net-zero by 2050.

The EU’s commitment has been met with criticism from Members of the European Parliament and climate action groups who suggest the target does not align with the Paris Agreement’s broader goals.[2] It is, however, notable that the EU announced in November 2020 that it was on track to achieving its 20% reduction target in 2020 as emissions in 2019 had reduced by around 24% compared to 1990 levels.[3]

Other commitments

Leaders from other countries also made further commitments with respect to their countries’ emissions, including:

  • The Canadian Prime Minister committing to reduce emissions by 40%-45% compared to 2005 levels, which is a 10%-15% increase on the previous commitment of a 30% reduction;
  • Japan announcing a target of 46% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, which is 20% higher than Japan’s previous 26% commitment; and
  • South Korea committing to stop public funding for foreign coal-fired power plants. While further details of this commitment are yet to be seen, South Korea’s commitment appears to have a similar tone to the UK’s commitment to end export finance for the fossil fuel sector (here).

Leading up to COP26

It will interesting to see further updates on these policies and commitments, and the efforts of governments globally in the months leading up to COP26 in Scotland later this year.





Silke Goldberg
Silke Goldberg
Partner, London
+44 20 7466 2612
Jannis Bille
Jannis Bille
Associate, London
+44 20 7466 6314