UK Review Advises ‘Step Change’ in Approach to Climate Change

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The UK needs “a step change” in its approach to slashing carbon emissions if it is to eliminate greenhouse gases by 2050, according to a review commissioned by the government.

The country is not doing enough to invest in projects that benefit the economy and climate, according to the review obtained by Bloomberg ahead of its planned release on Friday. The deployment of green technologies is being held-back by “”a lack of long-term thinking, siloed behaviour from government departments, and uncertainty over the length of funding commitments,” it said.

The review was commissioned in the fall by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, to scrutinize UK green policies and ensure they increase energy security and affordability while delivering on a national goal to achieve so-called “net zero” emissions by mid-century. It was prepared by Chris Skidmore, a Conservative former energy minister.

“We must deliver greater certainty, consistency, and clarity across net zero policy making,” Skidmore wrote in his foreword to the 340-page document. “Climate commitments and net zero targets remain just words on a page without a clear, consistent, and stable transition plan.”

Skidmore made 25 recommendations for policies to be advanced by 2025 in order to go “further, faster.” They include legislating to phase out gas boilers for household heating by 2033, setting out a clear roadmap to roll out carbon capture and storage technology and devising a plan for a fivefold increase in installed solar power in the next 12 years.

The recommendations come with the UK already likely to be in a prolonged recession, and Sunak under pressure to roll-out more policies aimed at growing the economy and reducing the country’s energy dependence.

Opportunity of the Century

Skidmore recommended the government publish a financing strategy by the end of this year to show how government spending and policies will be used to help scale up private financing and deliver projects geared toward net zero. He also recommended establishing an “Office for Net Zero Delivery” responsible for putting emissions reductions at the heart of all government policy.

“We have heard from businesses that economic opportunities are being missed today because of weaknesses in the UK’s investment environment,” he said.

Skidmore’s review described the pursuit of net zero as the “economic opportunity of the 21st century,” and said the UK is now at a “crossroads.”

“We can either go further and faster in the transition, capitalizing on our comparative advantages on clean technologies, our world class science base, our global leadership on financial services and the natural power reserves of the North Sea,” it said. “Or we can hold up our hands and say it is too difficult and watch our world-leading sectors, such as the City of London or our advanced car manufacturing, pack up and move on, taking high-skilled, high-paying jobs with them.”

The review identified 10 “missions” for the UK to pursue:

  • Create a plan to deliver the grid infrastructure needed to accelerate the deployment of onshore and offshore power projects
  • Ramp up solar power to 70 gigawatts of capacity by 2035, from just under 14 gigawatts now
  • Work with communities to deploy more onshore wind
  • Roll-out more nuclear power through a structured program covering the whole supply chain
  • Invest in long-term carbon-capture and hydrogen technologies
  • Step up recycling and the reuse of critical materials
  • Unblock the planning system and hand more power to local authorities
  • Work toward gas-free homes by 2035
  • Restore natural habitats
  • Set a roadmap for research, development and technology with more agile regulation

“When one of the governing party’s own MPs says tackling the climate crisis is the economic opportunity of the century, may we hope that ministers will finally listen” Greenpeace UK’s policy director Doug Parr said in a statement. “We have all seen what our dependence on fossil fuels is doing to our world – from devastating floods and heat-waves to budget-busting energy bills.”

Photo: A British Union flag, also known as a Union Jack, flies from a tourist souvenir stall on the bank of the River Thames in view of the Houses of Parliament in London (Bloomberg)

Copyright 2023 Bloomberg.

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