2020 has not shaped up to be the year that any of us had in mind.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister has reignited his commitment to “build back better” with the announcement of the government’s plan to push the country towards a greener path. In a move aimed at retaking the initiative, Boris Johnson has outlined his 10-point plan to accelerate the UK’s progress to net zero.
Perhaps one of the key takeaways from the 10-point plan is the ambition to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030, a decade sooner than the date originally mooted back in 2017. New hybrids will also be banned from that date unless they are capable of covering a “significant distance” in zero-emission mode.
In order for this goal to be achieved, the PM announced the government’s plan to invest more that £2.8bn in electric vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to support them.
While clarification has been given on what counts as “significant” zero-emission range, Johnson did state that the sale of hybrid cars and vans would be acceptable until 2035, allowing for more of a transition. Alongside this, the 10-point plan sets out a commitment to making public transport, walking or cycling more attractive to the public as means of transportation through the creation of thousands of green buses and “hundreds of miles” of cycle lanes.
Complimentary to reducing emissions from transportation are the plans to ban the use of gas as a heating source for homes by 2023. According to the Prime Minister, the government would aim to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 to make this a reality by giving homes a low-energy electrical solution to replace gas. Meanwhile, clean hydrogen will be blended into the natural gas supply to reduce overall emissions, and the Green Homes Grant is to be extended to support homeowners in making energy efficient improvements to their properties.
More broadly, the plan for a green industrial revolution sets out to tackle climate change and create thousands of jobs in industries such as nuclear energy. A sum of £4bn in total has been allocated to implement the plan as part of a wider £12bn package of public investment, which Business Secretary Alok Sharma has said will help to “bring in three times as much in terms of private sector money”, through the creation of 250,000 jobs in greener energy across parts of the UK – particularly in the North of England and in Wales.
Whether the government’s 10-point plan towards a greener future and reaching net zero by 2050 is achievable with the funds they have set aside, it’s certainly a big stride in the right direction.
To summarise, these are the 10 key proposals as set out by the Prime Minister:
One: The UK is already home to a large number of offshore wind farms, but the government intends to make the UK a “world leader in low cost clean power generation” and produce enough offshore wind energy to power every home in the country by 2030. The Prime Minister said £160million would be invested in ports and factories to manufacture the next generation of turbines, creating 60,000 jobs in the process.
Two: The 10-point plan set out by the Prime Minister proposes to turn water into energy with up to £500m of investment in hydrogen, with the promise of a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. This would begin by trialling a hydrogen-only neighbourhood by 2023 and hopefully move towards a hydrogen-only village by 2025. Of this funding, £240m will go towards create hydrogen production facilities.
Three: £215 million investment has been allocated towards small modular reactors as part of the Low-Cost Nuclear programme for 2021 onwards. In return, the initiative should generate £52bn of value to the UK economy by 2050 if a full fleet of 16 power stations are built and create up to 40,000 high value jobs in the process.
Four: A sum of £2.8 billion is to be invested into the production of electric vehicles, along with charging points and the production of long-lasting batteries in UK gigafactories. This drive towards electric vehicles will allow for the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans to be banned by 2030, although the sale of hybrid vehicles will still be allowed until 2035.
Five: Already, the Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged more people to walk and cycle than get in their cars for a short trip, but the new 10-point plan lays down a fresh commitment to creating hundreds of miles of new cycle lanes in a bid to make this form of transport more attractive to the population. It also promises cleaner public transport in the form of buses using green energy.
Six: Aviation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, an issue that the government intends to tackle with the creation of a zero-emission plane. Already, a number of start-ups and large engineering firms ae working to develop electric planes, which are currently being tested with the view of rolling them out for commercial flights in the next 20 years.
Seven: Arguably one of the vaguer promises of the list, point 7 of the 10-point plan sets aside a sum of £1bn for 2021 to make homes, schools and hospitals greener, and energy bills lower. Realistically, this investment will go towards greener insultation and green heating technology to cut emissions and save energy.
Eight: A further £1bn is to be funnelled into clusters across the North of England, Wales and Scotland in order to set a new global standard in carbon capture, usage and storage. This relies upon a chain of technologies that can prevent carbon dioxide produced by major factories and power plants from reaching the atmosphere.
Nine: More than 110,000 trees have been cut down by councils across the UK in the last three years, according to figures gathered under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act by the Sunday Times. Now, the government intends to remedy this with a goal of planting 30,000 hectares if trees every year by 2025, and rewilding 30,000 football pitches worth of countryside.
Ten: Finally, the Prime Minister announced his intention to make the City of London the global centre for green finance through the sovereign bond, carbon offsets markets and disclosure agreements. Further, a £1bn innovation fund will fuel the development and mass production of new low-carbon technology such as the world’s first liquid air battery.