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Net Zero Plan Announced By Government

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Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has today unveiled a series of plans that will help the country achieve net zero by 2050. The government says that plans will scale up affordable, clean, homegrown power and build “thriving green industries in Britain.”

The publication, which is titled “Powering up Britain” has been developed after the High Court ruled last year that the UK’s current net-zero plan wasn’t detailed enough. The court said that further plans, strategies and reports were necessary to show that the UK is on track to meet its 2050 target.

A key theme throughout the publication is a determination from the government to source more affordable energy directly from the UK, instead of relying on imported fossil fuels. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in energy prices skyrocketing and the government says that this is a way of preventing similar repercussions from occurring in the future.

The plan will also help to deliver Rishi Sunak’s promise of growing the economy as up to half a million jobs will be created in the green energy sector through the implementation of the outlined plans. These new plans include:

  • A commitment to Carbon Capture Usage and Storage.
  • £160m of funding to support the UK’s floating offshore wind industry.
  • £240m of funding into new green hydrogen production projects.
  • A fifth round of the UK’s £205m scheme to incentivise investment in renewable electricity.
  • The launch of a new competition to select the best Small Modular Reactor technologies.
  • A reform of the planning process that enables and approves solar power and offshore projects more quickly.
  • Further energy efficiency support for more households via the Great British Insulations Scheme that will upgrade 300,000 of the nation’s least energy efficient homes.
  • A £380m investment into EV charging points to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.
  • A £30m investment into heat pumps and boiler upgrades.
  • Building a stable environment for businesses to invest and grow in the transition to electric vehicles and sustainable aviation fuel.

The report also responds to Chris Skidmore’s independent review on net zero which outlined 25 recommendations to the government on how to best achieve net zero by 2050. Within the “powering up Britain” report, there is confirmation that 23 of these recommendations are being acted upon.

“Driving forward plans to boost renewables” to push for net zero

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has faced criticism in the past over his reported disinterest in net zero and green policies, has said that the new report shows that his government is fully committed to “maintaining our world-leading action reach net zero”. He added:

“When global energy supplies are disrupted and weaponised by the likes of Putin, we have seen household bills soar and economic growth slow around the world.

We have stepped in to shield people from its worst impacts by helping to pay around half the typical energy bill. But we are also stepping up to power Britain and ensure our energy security in the long term with more affordable, clean energy from Britain, so we can drive down energy prices and grow our economy.

That’s why we’re driving forward plans to boost renewables, revive nuclear and build new thriving industries like carbon capture, which will in turn create good jobs across the country.”

What is their response?

Despite the Prime Minister’s optimism, the newly published plan hasn’t been received well by environmental activists and scientists alike.

Dr Chris Jones, an academic at the University of Manchester whose research focuses on climate change said that the report is a “weak response to the UK’s zero-carbon energy needs.” He added:

“The regressive measures on fossil fuels won’t make any real impact on our bills and energy security, but they are enough to downgrade the UK’s role as a leader in tackling climate change.”

Meanwhile, Mike Childs, the head of policy at Friends of the Earth said:

“With these policies looking dangerously lacklustre and lacking on climate action, we are poised to act if ministers have fallen short once again.”

Final thought

Senior figures from Friends of the Earth were part of the group that took the initial plans to the High Court last year. The threat of similar action could potentially embarrass the government into a re-think on some of its published strategies.

One area which has been neglected almost entirely in the new plan is home insulation. Heating in homes currently accounts for 14% of the UK emissions so a strategy to improve insulation could go a long way to bring down energy consumption in the country.

Given the immediate backlash to this report, it seems likely that we will be receiving a third net-zero plan at some point in the near future.

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