Industry

18 NOV 2020

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR "GREEN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION"

Boris Johnson’s £12bn ten-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” has brought praise from environmental groups and plaudits from the construction and infrastructure sector. The government says that the plans, which were widely trailed in the media, will lead to the creation of 250,000 jobs, with many aimed at the north of England, Scotland, the Midlands and Wales.

Eye-catching policies included a pledge to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, ten years ahead of the previous schedule and another pledge to quadruple offshore wind power capacity within a decade. The prime minister will have been particularly pleased by the response from Greenpeace to the announcement to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars which they described as signalling “the end of the road for polluting cars and vans and a historic turning point on climate action”.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee was equally welcoming of the government’s announcements. “The plans announced today will transform Britain for the better, bringing new opportunities and new investment,” he said.

The ten-point plan comprises:

  1. A ban on combustion engine sales by 2030, with grants for electric cars, and funding for charge points. Sale of some hybrid cars and vans will continue until 2035.
  2. A pledge to quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, to 40GW, enough to power every UK home.
  3. Moves to boost hydrogen production, with the promise of a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  4. Investment of £525m on new nuclear power, based on the next generation of small and advanced reactors.
  5. £1bn in 2021 for funds to insulate homes and public buildings, using the existing green homes grant and public sector decarbonisation scheme.
  6. An extra £200m for carbon capture initiatives.
  7. Support for greener energies in the aviation and maritime sectors, with £20m committed to the latter.
  8. 30,000 hectares of trees planted every year.
  9. Moves to promote public transport, cycling and walking, though no details were announced.
  10. A pledge to make London “the global centre of green finance”.

The government says that the plans will cost £12bn, with £8bn of this being new funding. Labour criticised the plans, saying that it believed only £4bn was new spending. Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “The funding in this long-awaited announcement doesn’t remotely meet the scale of what is needed to tackle the unemployment emergency and climate emergency we are facing, and pales in comparison to the tens of billions committed by France and Germany.

“Only a fraction of the funding announced today is new. We don’t need rebadged funding pots and reheated pledges, but an ambitious plan that meets the scale of the task we are facing and – crucially – creates jobs now.”

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), which represents companies working in the environmental technologies and services sector, said: “We are delighted to see positive news on green financing more generally, but specifically around innovation funding for net zero. The Climate Change Committee has made a lot of assumptions on future technology and as the drivers of environmental innovation, our members are crucial to meeting these expectations. 

“Government must now focus on boosting enforcement of policies, such as energy efficiency regulations, where compliance is sometimes scandalously low. Without more effort and resources put into this area, today’s encouraging announcements are likely to have limited impact.”

As ever, the devil will be in the detail of these welcome announcements and the government’s resolve is likely to be tested by some powerful vested interests in the months and years ahead. That resolve can be bolstered by the construction industry which will be crucial in building the infrastructure that will help to underpin many of the prime minister’s ambitious pledges. 

The industry will need to be bold in speaking up and speaking out on issues and in holding the government’s feet to the fire on its promises. As Mathew Riley, UK managing director of international environmental consultancy Ramboll, said: “If we are to become a global leader in achieving net zero and taking effective action on the climate crisis then rapid implementation of this plan must be a priority - time is absolutely of the essence. 

“The UK originally set one of the most ambitious targets for net zero but to remain global leaders in climate action we need to move further and faster. While a welcome move, the government’s ten-point plan comes worryingly close to the wire.”

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