More money for electric cars, on-street charging points and planting trees has been unveiled as part of efforts to drive down climate-warming emissions.
The Government has published its long-awaited “net zero” strategy ahead of crucial UN Cop26 climate talks which the UK is hosting in Glasgow, which ministers hope will set an example to other countries on how to go green.
In what it describes as a “landmark strategy” it details plans to meet legal targets to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, cutting pollution as much as possible and using measures such as woodland creation to mop up what remains.
But critics were quick to warn the strategy, which runs to more than 360 pages, did not provide enough policies or investment to drive the transformation needed to reach net zero.
UK’s first ever #NetZero Strategy published today.
This is how we will end our contribution to climate change.
Creating jobs and attracting investment at the same time.#COP26, we’re ready 🌍
— Dept for BEIS (@beisgovuk) October 19, 2021
The strategy would support 440,000 jobs in new sectors or for people moving from high-carbon industries to cleaner ones, such as boiler fitters retraining as clean heat pump engineers, and unlock £90 billion in private investment in 2030 on the way to the mid-century goal, according to the Government.
Shifting to a clean economy will also reduce the UK’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and the threat of global price spikes, which has been seen in the recent energy crisis.
Officials insisted the policies in the strategy would deliver carbon cuts needed to meet UK legal targets in the 2020s and 2030s and deliver on commitments to cut greenhouse gases by 68% by 2030 under the global Paris climate accord.
But details of how they measure up to close the current gap between the targets and the emissions cuts from action the Government is already taking have not been published.
New investment in the plans includes £620 million for electric vehicle grants and infrastructure such as on-street charging, £500 million for innovation projects to develop new clean technologies and £140 million to help green hydrogen projects get off the ground, officials said.
A £450 million pot will give households in England and Wales grants of £5,000 to swap their gas boilers for low-carbon electric air-source heat pumps for heating and hot water, and there is a £124 million boost for creating woodlands and restoring peatland to store carbon.
And the Government said it will introduce a zero emission vehicle mandate setting targets for a percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emissions each year from 2024.
It is also aiming for 10% of aviation fuel to come from sustainable sources by 2030, backed with £180 million in funding.
The strategy also covers cutting emissions from the power sector, including supporting new nuclear plants, and industry, and measures to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
But it is silent on what some see as a key plank in tackling climate change – a reduction in meat consumption to reduce emissions from livestock and free up land for planting trees.
The strategy says it will work “with the grain of consumer choice”, not forcing people to change their habits, rip out their boilers or scrap their current car.
Public investment of £26 billion has been mobilised for the green industrial revolution, the Government said.
Alongside the strategy, the Treasury has published a review of the costs of achieving net zero, in which it acknowledged the costs of global inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action to tackle climate change.
It found it was not possible to assess the impact on individual household finances but there would be demands on public spending and a loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels such as fuel duty, which would need to be addressed.
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.
“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.”
The independent statutory Climate Change Committee’s chief executive Chris Stark described the strategy as a “substantial step forward” that laid out the Government’s ambitions.
“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,” he said, adding that the critical next step was turning words into deeds.
But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband accused the Treasury of torpedoing the plan.
He said: “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.”
He said the Government was offering a fraction of the £28 billion a year to 2030 that Labour was proposing for the green transition.
Business group the CBI’s chief policy director Matthew Fell said the strategy and the Treasury’s review filled in some of the blanks on how to realise the UK’s climate ambitions.
But he warned: “To truly transform the UK economy based on sustainable and green growth, we need to push further and faster and make key decisions on how to finance the transition to net zero.
“An honest conversation needs to happen here in the UK about how we pay to go green.”
Katie White, from conservation charity WWF, said: “We are finally seeing the UK Government set out a positive vision for net zero, sending a clear signal to every sector of the economy on their role, but we are still lacking the full suite of policies and increased funding to close the gap between climate promises and action.”
She called for the Chancellor to ensure public finances supported the transition, and to adopt a “net zero test” to ensure all Government spending was in line with climate action.