It is late and full of holes. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point climate plan remains the first big step toward meeting the country’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 since it was set last year. Johnson says the plan’s broad technology solutions amount to a “green industrial revolution,” but is it enough?
The main policy of banning new gasoline and diesel car sales by 2030, a decade ahead of schedule, is monumental. It puts the UK 10 years ahead of France and just five years behind the electric car leader Norway. Still, in a concession to automakers, new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which still run on fossil fuels and have been he found To be much more polluting in the real world than in labs, it will be sold until 2035.
The plan correctly focuses on construction, transportation and heavy industry. While the UK has made great strides in cleaning up supplies in recent years, phasing out coal and encouraging offshore wind farms, it has stalled in those other sectors. Energy remains a priority, and the two main axes of the new plan are offshore wind power and nuclear power.
The two cheapest forms of clean electricity generation, onshore wind and solar, are not mentioned. However, there is £ 525 million for nuclear plants, mostly small that are unproven. Government reports await the electricity they generate costs more than the large ones, but they can still be a good climate and industrial bet.
Meanwhile, some large issuers are virtually absent from today’s plan. Land use, including agriculture, forestry and peatlands, accounts for 12% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are no incentives for farmers to reduce their emissions and there is little funding for these sectors. Shipping and aviation receive a mention, but no new funding or policies.
In general, the most obvious flaw in the plan is money. The 10 points equals £ 12bn of funds in total, but only £ 4bn of that is new. The UK government is spending at least £ 210 billion on covid-19 Y £ 27bn in road construction in England alone more than five years. Caterina Brandmayr, from the Green Alliance think tank in London, says funding for walking, cycling and public transport is £ 9.3bn less than what is needed for net zero.
It would be rude not to recognize bold new goals, like capturing and storing 10 megatons each year from the current UK annual. 351 megatons of CO2 emissions by 2030 and install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 to replace polluting gas boilers, compared to 27,000 in 2018.
However, these are mostly just goals for now. The strategies needed to turn them into something more than aspirational are still lacking, like a long overdue energy white paper. Furthermore, the UK’s approach to net zero needs to be consistent, avoiding policies that encourage high-carbon investments that cancel Johnson’s plan, which can be featured in the government’s spending review in a week.
Earlier this month, the government said it was even further away from reaching its carbon targets by 2032 than previously thought, at 331 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in total. Today’s plan reduces that gap, but the government granted its new measures will only reduce 180Mt / CO2e.
For all its flaws, it remains a very positive step from a government that has been loud on climate rhetoric but quiet on climate action. Johnson’s policy backing the plan will be important to investors who will have to pay for much of it to become a reality. And if the government wants to be taken seriously as host of next year’s vital COP26 climate summit, this plan must be the first of many great moves by the UK.
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