The UK government has announced a new Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, setting out its vision to create a low-carbon industrial sector and dramatically slash emissions from public buildings. It is the first strategy to be published by a major economy.

The UK government has called its strategy “an ambitious blueprint to deliver the world’s first low-carbon industrial sector”, promising over £1 billion in funding to cut emissions from industry, schools and hospitals. Announced by Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on the 17th of March, the plan precedes promises made by Boris Johnson in his 10 Point Plan (late 2020) that Britain will lead a global green industrial revolution.

The government has reemphasised its commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050. Made in June 2019, the target is a legal obligation providing action following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016. The government has also ambitiously pledged to reduce industrial emissions by two thirds by 2035 (compared to 2018 levels) and capture at least 3 megatons of CO2 each year by 2030. However, this is subject to a large-scale transformation of the economy.

It must be noted that the £1billion is not representative of new spending and refers to pre-announced investments that have now been allocated to specific projects. Criticism was also levelled at the government’s absence of any green conditions in the Spring Budget (enabling tax breaks to fossil fuel companies) and delayed response to block the opening of a deep coal mine in Cumbria, the first in 30 years. The Cumbria Mining’s Woodhouse Colliery project would produce 2.7 million tonnes of coking coal a year with 85% marked for export.

We were the first major economy to put into law our target to end our contribution to climate change, and today we’re taking steps to be the first major economy to have its own low carbon industrial sector…
While reaching our climate targets will require extensive change across our economy, we must do so in a way that protects jobs, creates new industries and attracts inward investment – without pushing emissions and business abroad.

 

–  Kwasi Kwarteng, Business and Energy Secretary

 

The strategy has also been unveiled less than two weeks after The Public Accounts Committee published ‘Achieving Net Zero’, a report conducted by a cross-party selection of MPs to evaluate the progress of the government’s Net Zero strategy. The committee states that “at present, there is no coordinated plan with clear milestones towards achieving the target, making it difficult for Parliament and the general public to understand or scrutinise how the country is doing in its efforts to achieve net-zero emissions”.

The Achieving Net Zero inquiry found that with the current trajectory, the UK’s emissions will exceed the government’s targets set for the years 2023-2027 and 2028-2032. Heavy emphasis was also placed on the lack of engagement with the public on the subject of behavioural change, such as lifestyle choices to consumer-based decisions; this is especially important given 62% of the future reduction in emissions will rely on individual actions.

Despite this, the Decarbonisation strategy has been welcomed by many leading figures such as Bryony Livesey (Challenge Director for the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, UKRI), Rain Newton-Smith (CBI Chief Economist), Stephen Phipson (CEO of Make UK), and Nick Molho (Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group).

 

What are the key points?

 

  • The proposed low carbon industrial sector will see the slashing emissions by two-thirds in just 15 years.
  • The measures will support up to 80,000 jobs over the next three decades.
  • £171 million from the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge has been allocated to nine green tech projects in Scotland, South Wales and North West, Humber and Teesside in England.
  • There will be heavy investment to undertake engineering and design studies for the rollout of decarbonisation infrastructure, such as carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen.
  • 429 public sector projects across England are to receive £932 million; this covers investment in low carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps, and energy efficiency measures like insulation and LED lighting.
  • There will be new regulations on measuring the energy and carbon performance of the UK’s largest commercial and industrial buildings, in England and Wales. These rules could potentially save businesses a collective total of £2billion annually in energy costs in 2030. It is also projected that these efforts will reduce annual carbon emissions by over 2 million tonnes and will cut approximately 10% of the current emissions from these buildings, the equivalent to removing emissions from a town the size of Doncaster.
  • To use ‘Project Speed’, the Government’s Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce, to ensure the land planning regime is capable of building low carbon infrastructure.

The Decarbonisation Strategy aims to structure the government’s approach towards creating a Green Revolution and forces the subject of climate action into the mainstream. However, questions raised in terms of the provision of new investment and as part of the Achieving Net Zero Inquiry into the achievement of the targets have provided effective challenges to the government’s narrative. What’s clear is that with COP26 is set to take place in November 2021 in Glasgow, the pressure will be on for the UK to substantiate its claims.

 

Resources:

The Decarbonisation Strategy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-sector-decarbonisation-scheme-psds

Achieving Net Zero Report by The Public Accounts Committee:

https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4921/documents/49419/default/

 

 

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