In November 2020 the UK Government released its 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, did you hear about it, have you heard about all the work already underway? Sadly I suspect the answer to both of these questions may well be no, which reflects the lack of sense of urgency or even importance of the plan. In August 2021 alongside government measures to tackle Covid-19 this should be the major thing we hear about because tackling Climate Change needs to be the major activity of the UK Government, there is little evidence this is the case.
The plan as its subtitle says is all about building back better, supporting green jobs and accelerating our path to net zero.
What the 10 Point Green Plan is not is a plan to make the UK net zero, rather it is a series of actions which will help to decarbonise the UK economy.
- Point 1: Advancing offshore wind – quadruple by 2030 – 10GW to 40GW
- Point 2: Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen – 1GW by 2025
- Point 3: Delivering new and advanced nuclear power – Hinkley C 2025, demos 2030
- Point 4: Accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles – 2,500 fast chargers 2030
- Point 5: Green public transport, cycling and walking – double cycling by 2025
- Point 6: Jet zero and green ships – 2025 consult on sustainable fuels
- Point 7: Greener buildings – 2021 building policies, 2032 1/2 public building
- Point 8: Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage – 2030 2 clusters
- Point 9: Protecting our natural environment – 2024 10 landscape recovery projects
- Point 10: Green finance and innovation – net zero innovation portfolio – H2 Tees
None of the 10 points in the plan are wrong, but none are timely enough or ambitious enough to appropriately address the climate emergency we are facing. In many areas this is less ambitious than the repealed measures which had been in legislation prior to 2011. So this would have been an ambitious policy if published in 1999, but was not in 2020.
The 10 points mainly address energy, so it is possible to order the points in the importance which they have in getting to zero carbon. Getting to zero carbon means the first priority should be to reduce energy requirements and then to find ways of generating energy without carbon emissions. So the order of importance is 10, 9, 7, 5, 1, 4, 2, 8, 6, 3 – most important first.
Find the money – we need to get the systems in order, 10 sadly getting our finance systems sorted out is key to stop subsidising bad behaviour (oil exploration, …) through taxes and make finance available to carry out the green activities.
Protect the land – once the finances are freed up then 9 protecting our natural environment, basically stopping any further damage to our environment.
Reduce our energy consumption – 7, 5, 1 – our building stock and our transport systems are extremely wasteful of energy, buildings must be made more energy efficient and transport must reduce its use of energy.
Use energy more efficiently – 4, 2, 8 – electric vehicles, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – these all help but aren’t the solution but enablers – electric vehicles let us shift from fossil fuels to renewable electricity, hydrogen may be the way to store energy and CCS would allow activities which have to generate CO2 to continue.
Avoid reducing energy demand – 6,3 – zero carbon air travel is a long way off, better to address reducing air travel rather than allow air travel to continue in the hope that long term it will be zero carbon. Nuclear power is part of the existing energy infrastructure, but probably shouldn’t be any bigger – nuclear electricity can’t be switched off, so when renewables are exceeding electricity needs, baseload nuclear just makes that excess larger. This may make further investment in nuclear generation a deterrent to investment in sufficient renewable electricity generation.