The UK Government’s ‘Green Day’

Last July, the High Court ruled that the Net Zero Strategy, which sets out plans to decarbonise the UK economy, didn’t meet the government’s obligations under the Climate Change Act, or produce detailed climate policies that show how the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets will be met. Following a successful legal challenge by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project, the result was the expected ‘Green Day’ last week, where the government had until the end of March to respond to the ruling and publish a revised Net Zero Strategy.

The following is from a release by Green Economy on 30th March 2023, with Friends of the Earth’s initial comments to the launch of the reports below.

UK Government’s ‘Green Day’ – Key policies

A day after the Climate Change Commission found that the UK is ‘strikingly unprepared’ for dealing with the impact of climate change, the UK Government’s ‘Green Day’ relaunches its strategy to deliver net zero, by driving investment into nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

The ‘Powering Up Britain’ report was published today (Thursday 30 March) by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, following a review of the previous Net Zero Strategy and in response to the Independent Review of Net Zero conducted by Chris Skidmore MP. Of the report Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:
“Transforming our energy system is no longer just about tackling climate change, it is also a matter of national security. To protect ourselves from future price spikes, we need to accelerate the move to cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy.”

This and the key headlines demonstrate a marked shift in the narrative away from climate change towards energy security. Two strategies were released today the ‘Powering Up Britain – Energy Security Plan’, the second to be issued this year and the ‘Powering Up Britain – The Net Zero Growth Plan’  which is the UK Government’s second net zero strategy in two years.

Green Economy will provide a deep dive into the detail of the Net Zero Growth Plan in the coming weeks, but we’ve laid out today’s key announcements below.

Key announcements from Powering Up Britain announcement

• £30 million Heat Pump Investment Accelerator to leverage £270 million of private investment to boost manufacturing and supply of heat pumps in the UK.
• Extension of Boiler Upgrade Scheme to 2028, offering a grant of up to £5,000 to anyone buying a heat pump.
• Launch of Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure fund and On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme to install tens of thousands of new chargers across the country.
• Launch of Great British Insulation which will incentivise people in council tax bands A-D to insulate their properties. This is part of the £1 billion energy efficiency programme which will run until March 2026 aiming to reduce energy demand by 15 per cent by 2030.
• Rebalance of gas and electricity costs to make electricity more affordable and effective for households and businesses.
• Speed up planning approvals for energy infrastructure projects such as solar power and offshore wind.
• Extra £10 billion capacity added to UK Export Finance to boost exports which clean growth sectors can access.
• Commitment to Carbon Capture Usage and Storage to be rolled out in industrial heartlands
• Investment into UK’s emerging floating offshore wind by launching £160 million fund to support port infrastructure projects.
• Update to the Green Finance Strategy to mobilise investment for net zero and nature recovery. This will include a consultation on requirements for largest firms to publish their net zero strategy; regulation for ESG rating providers and investment road maps for offshore wind, hydrogen, CCUS and heat pump sectors.
• Support for the new green hydrogen production projects as part of the £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund.
• UK Infrastructure Bank to invest up to £200 million into funds on a matched basis for long and short term electricity storage solutions.

Of the report, Amy House, Director of Green Economy commented:
“Today we have seen the lens shift from this issue to energy security, with nuclear and carbon capture and storage to play a leading role in overcoming these challenges. The reality of these technologies however, mean we’re unlikely to see an impact to our carbon emissions for well over a decade, missing our 50% reduction deadline by at least four years. Major infrastructure projects including onshore wind and solar farms would be far quicker to implement.

“Meaningful policy is needed to steer net zero from concept to reality. This means investing in home grown innovators that have solutions ready and waiting and compelling their integration into our existing infrastructure and our new developments.”

An initial statement published from Friends of the Earth said:

Today’s government announcements on energy security and climate change are inadequate and risk failing to meet UK climate targets, says Friends of the Earth.

These announcements are likely to be part of a revised net zero strategy, which the government is required to publish by the end of this week following a successful legal challenge by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project.

The revised NZS needs to demonstrate how UK carbon emissions will fall in line with legally binding emission reduction targets. Friends of the Earth lawyers will study the detail of the revised strategy and are poised to act again if it falls short of meeting legally-binding carbon budgets.

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said:
“Ministers should be scaling up and accelerating the race to net zero, but these plans look half-baked, half-hearted and dangerously lacking ambition.

“Instead of the nationwide insulation programme urgently needed to fix our heat-leaking homes, they’ve simply re-branded an existing scheme that will only reach a fraction of the properties that need improvement.

“Yet again, onshore wind has been ignored despite being cheap, plentiful and popular with the public – and crucial for meeting our climate targets.

“The idea that Carbon Capture and Storage is a solution is fanciful – burning fossil fuels can never be green.

“These announcements will do little to boost energy security, lower bills or put us on track to meet climate goals.”