Ed Miliband made the announcement this lunchtime in his first speech to the House of Commons as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
Last week, the Climate Change Committee wrote to Mr Miliband to say the 80% target was needed if the UK was to play its part in avoiding dangerous climate change. It will be extremely challenging to meet, the Committee said, but the net cost of the changes needed to decarbonise the UK economy are equivalent to just 1 to 2 % of gross domestic product in 2050.
“The government accepts all the recommendations of the Committee,” Mr Miliband said. “We will amend the Climate Change Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and that target he will be binding in law.”
“In tough economic times, some people will ask whether we should retreat from our climate change objectives,” he added. “In our view, it would be quite wrong to row back and those who say we should misunderstand the relationship between the economic and environmental tasks we face.”
The Climate Change Bill – unveiled last March – is due its third reading on 28 October. It currently contains a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050. The new target will apply to all six greenhouse gases identified under the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr Miliband also announced the government will amend the Energy Bill to introduce a feed-in tariff for small-scale renewables. This is expected to go beyond microrenewables such as small wind turbines to include community-scale projects.
The Energy Bill is currently going through the House of Lords.