UK’s ‘leading’ net-zero strategy published
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The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has set out his long-awaited strategy for the country to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He has framed the UK as the leader in a green revolution that will encourage other western economies to end their dependence on fossil fuels.
The 368-page strategy document (Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener) lays out government policy in areas including transport, waste, energy, heat, and fuel.
“The UK leads the world in the race to net zero,” Johnson writes in the document’s foreword. “The likes of China and Russia are following our lead with their own net-zero targets, as prices tumble and green tech becomes the global norm.” He says that the transition will be fair (by making carbon-free alternatives cheaper) and will not compromise economic growth or quality of life.
“This strategy shows how we can build back greener, without so much as a hair shirt in sight. In 2050, we will still be driving cars, flying planes, and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric gliding silently around our cities, our planes will be zero emission, allowing us to fly guilt-free, and our homes will be heated by cheap reliable power drawn from the winds of the North Sea. And everywhere you look, in every part of our UK, there will be jobs. Good jobs, green jobs, well-paid jobs, levelling up our country while squashing down our carbon emissions.
“That is the clean and prosperous future that awaits every one of us as the UK leads the world in the race to net zero.”
Speaking in Parliament, junior energy minister Greg Hands said that the strategy will create 440,000 new jobs in green industries across the country by the end of the decade.
The document includes many long-term pledges to decarbonise the UK economy, some with caveats. It expands on the basic ten-point plan for decarbonisation previously announced by the government.
Regarding energy, the government pledges that the UK will be entirely powered by “clean electricity”, subject to security of supply. This will include: a final investment decision on another large-scale nuclear power station this parliament; 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 and increased onshore wind and solar; 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2030; and deployment of energy storage to help smooth future price spikes.
The government is promising to future-proof industrial sectors and the communities they employ while incentivising decarbonisation in industry.
Regarding heat and buildings, it promises to: ban new gas boiler sales by 2035; provide grants of up to £5,000 per household for low-carbon heating systems; reduce public sector building emissions by 75 per cent by 2037; and launch a 'Hydrogen Village' trial to inform a decision on the future role of hydrogen as a fuel. Its fuel policies include supporting the existing Industrial Decarbonisation and Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme with £140m and introducing a “climate compatibility checkpoint” for regulating the oil and gas sector.
Its transport pledges include: a zero-emission vehicle mandate to deliver on its commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030; increased funding for zero-emission vehicle grants and EV infrastructure, including local residential charging; allocating a further £350m to the up to £1bn Automotive Transformation Fund to support electrification; expanding zero-emission HGV trials; creation of better integrated bus networks with 4,000 zero-emission buses; net-zero rail network by 2050 and phase-out of diesel-only trains by 2040; and enabling delivery of 10 per cent sustainable aviation fuel by 2030 with £180m funding for development of new aircraft.
Regarding natural resources and waste, its key pledge is to restore 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and to treble woodland creation rates in England. Other policies include delivering £100m investment in greenhouse gas removal innovation and introducing a new Sustainability Disclosures Regime, including mandatory climate-related financial disclosures.
The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented: “Now is the time the world needs to go further and faster to tackle climate change. The UK is stepping up to that challenge. Here we set out our ambition strategy […] to create new jobs, develop new industries with innovative new technologies and become a more green, energy-secure nation with clean green British energy. At the same time, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy to reach net zero by 2050.”
He added that the plan could attract £90bn in investment.
Speaking in parliament, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said that the plans fall far short of what is required to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: “The plan falls short on delivery, and while there is modest short-term investment, there is nothing like the commitment we believe is required.”
He questioned whether the strategy would be sufficient to meet targets set in the 2035 carbon budget, stating: “Isn’t the truth that despite hundreds of pages of plans, strategies and hot air, there is a still a chasm with this Government between the rhetoric and the reality? My fear is this plan will not deliver the fair, prosperous transition we need equal to the scale of the emergency we face.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, meanwhile, said the strategy ignores the “elephant in the room” by failing to include measures to halt fossil fuel investments.
“The UK must be net zero as soon as possible; Britain’s economy needs it just as much as the world’s climate does. Yet rapid progress to net zero just isn't possible while the government keeps ignoring the elephant in the room,” he said in a statement. “The UK produces just two per cent of global emissions, so to really impact the global fight against climate change, we need to stop financiers in the City of London funding the world’s fossil fuel industries. Whilst millions of people across the UK are doing the right thing, often making difficult decisions to live more sustainably, big finance and big fossil fuel giants are raking it in hand over fist on dirty coal, oil, and gas deals. If the Conservative government is really serious about net zero, it will get this dirty money out of teh City of London.”
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain ahead of the publication, Rebecca Newsom, head of policy at Greenpeace UK, welcomed the direction of the strategy but warned that it cannot be described as “world-leading”.
Chris Stark, CEO of the independent Climate Change Committee said: “We didn’t have a plan before, now we do. This is a substantial step forward that lays out clearly the government’s ambitions to cut emissions across the economy over the coming 15 years and beyond. It provides much more clarity about what lies ahead for businesses and individuals and the key actions required in the coming decades to deliver a net-zero nation. It also gives the UK a strong basis to be president of the forthcoming COP26 summit. The critical next step is turning words into deeds. We have begun to assess the strategy in more detail and the extent to which the policies proposed in this strategy deliver their ambition.”
Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, criticised the scale and ambition of the strategy: “The UK can be a world leader in creating good, green jobs. But this strategy is a huge let down. The government has failed to implement many of the main recommendations of its own green jobs taskforce - just two weeks before it hosts [COP26]. That’s not the same to show global leadership - it’s self-sabotage. Today’s spending commitments will do little to address the yawning investment gap needed to get British industry ready for net-zero. Unless ministers do more to future proof and decarbonise energy-intensive industries, hundreds of thousands of jobs in UK manufacturing and supply chains will be in jeopardy.”
The call for papers is open for the IET Renewable Power Generation conference – taking place in London in September 2022. Successful authors will have their papers published and indexed in IET Inspec, IEEE Xplore and The IET Digital Library. Find out more and submit your abstract by 10 December at theiet.org/rpg
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