The National Infrastructure Commission and the Climate Change Committee have both cautiously welcomed the UK government’s new Net Zero Strategy, but have urged that now is the time for urgent action to replace warm words.
Announced as the UK prepares to host the UN COP26 summit next week, the government’s Net Zero Strategy claims to set out how the UK will secure 440,000 well-paid jobs and unlock £90bn of investment by 2030 on its path to ending its contribution to climate change by 2050.
Other leading industry figures have cautiously welcomed the strategy but are still analysing the detail, highlighting a lack of clarity in how some of the projected outcomes can be achieved, and also a potential lack of commitment on decarbonising rail.
However, Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the strategy doesn’t go far enough and “lacks the leadership required to tackle climate breakdown and bring the benefits of a green transition to Britain.”
Building on the prime minister’s ten-point-plan, unveiled almost a year ago, ministers say the UK Net Zero Strategy sets out a comprehensive economy-wide plan for how British businesses and consumers will be supported in making the transition to clean energy and green technology – lowering Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels by investing in sustainable clean energy in the UK, reducing the risk of high and volatile prices in the future, and strengthening the UK’s energy security.
Ministers also say the strategy will provide certainty to businesses to support the UK in gaining a competitive edge in the latest low carbon technologies – from heat pumps to electric vehicles – and in developing thriving green industries in the UK’s industrial heartlands – from carbon capture to hydrogen, backed by new funding.
As part of the strategy, new investment includes:
- An extra £350m of the government’s £1bn commitment to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains and another £620m for targeted electric vehicle grants and infrastructure, particularly local on-street residential charge points;
- An ambition to enable the delivery of 10% Sustainable Aviation Fuel by 2030, with £180m in funding to support the development of UK SAF plants;
- £140m Industrial and Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme to accelerate industrial carbon capture and hydrogen, bridging the gap between industrial energy costs from gas and hydrogen and helping green hydrogen projects get off the ground. Two carbon capture clusters - Hynet Cluster in North West England and North Wales and the East Coast Cluster in Teesside and the Humber - backed by the government’s £1bn support;
- An extra £500m towards innovation projects to develop the green technologies of the future, bringing the total funding for net zero research and innovation to at least £1.5bn.
- £3.9bn of new funding for decarbonising heat and buildings, including the new £450m three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme, so homes and buildings are warmer, cheaper to heat and cleaner to run
- £124m boost to the Nature for Climate Fund helping meet government commitments to restore approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and treble woodland creation in England to meet commitments to create at least 30,000 hectares of woodland per year across the UK by the end of this parliament;
- £120m towards the development of nuclear projects through the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund. Ministers say this could support the path to decarbonising the UK’s electricity system fifteen years earlier from 2050 to 2035.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries – powering our green industrial revolution across the country. By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way. With the major climate summit COP26 just around the corner, our strategy sets the example for other countries to build back greener too as we lead the charge towards global net zero.”
Business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “There is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment. The countries that capture the benefits of this global green industrial revolution will enjoy unrivalled growth and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK is fighting fit. Today’s plan will not only unlock billions of pounds of investment to boost the UK’s competitive advantage in green technologies, but will create thousands of jobs in new, future-proof industries – clearly demonstrating that going green and economic growth go hand in hand.”
Responding to the strategy, National Infrastructure Commission chairman Sir John Armitt said: “The strategy sets out a range of commitments and timescales for action. It is both hugely ambitious and has to be delivered. The priority now is to get on with it. It is encouraging to see a commitment to developing a whole new industry to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, which the Commission has recommended needs to be put in place over the next decade if we are to meet our international climate obligations. The Strategy indicates broad agreement with the Commission’s proposals for how this market should be regulated and financed, and we look forward to seeing further details in due course.”
Still digesting the lengthy document, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) issued an initial response. CCC chief executive Chris Stark 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.”
The Climate Change Committee says it will publish a fuller assessment of the Net Zero Strategy in the coming days, but Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary and a former secretary of state for energy and climate change in Gordon Brown’s government between 2008-2010, said the plan didn’t go far enough.
“This is a plan torpedoed by the treasury,” said Miliband. “Once again, it has failed to recognise that the prudent, responsible choice is to sufficiently invest in a green transition. Homeowners are left to face the costs of insulation on their own, industries like steel and hydrogen are left hobbled in the global race without the support they need, and the government cannot even confirm they will meet their climate target for 2035.
“While Labour has a bold climate investment pledge of £28bn extra each and every year to 2030, the government offers a tiny fraction of that. This does not meet our ambitions for British industries to thrive, prosper and lead the world or show the government leadership required to tackle climate breakdown and bring the benefits of a green transition to Britain.”