October 12th saw the long-awaited publication of what began an emissions reduction plan, and has finally emerged as the government’s Clean Growth Strategy. This was intended to lay out a pathway to UK decarbonisation, showing how we will meet the legally binding targets central to the UK Climate Change Act. As such, the strategy is central to the UK’s contribution to global climate action.
Remarkably, it also appears to have pressed a reset button on UK climate policy. The strategy frames acting on climate change as a “huge” opportunity that opens doors to industrial leadership while providing social benefits - rather than as an economic burden. The result is an increase in ambition and enthusiasm, with over 50 policies and plans focussing on innovation, efficiency and technology. A foreword from the Prime Minister states “clean growth is not an option, but a duty”.
However it is significant that what began as a plan is now a strategy. While the tone and aspirations of the Clean Growth Strategy are exciting, it is light on detail. It is also starkly inadequate, leading the UK to miss its 2030 target of a 57% reduction in emissions by nearly 10%. Policy and implementation that builds on the plan will be critical to ramping up ambition and closing this gap. While the clean growth strategy should be welcomed as a genuinely exciting shift in the UK’s attitude to cutting emissions, there is no room to let up the pressure on politicians yet.
What are the winners in the Clean Growth Strategy?
Transport. While a commitment to end sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 matches or lags behind other countries (e.g. France and the Netherlands), this is backed up by funding to reduce the upfront costs of electric vehicles, accelerate uptake of low emission public transport and to deliver “one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world”. There is also support for encouraging cycling and walking.
Energy efficiency. This is an important arena for cutting UK emissions while simultaneously tackling important social issues such as fuel poverty. The strategy includes significant investment in upgrading homes, underlying aims to upgrade all fuel poor homes to EPC band C by 2030 and to roll this out to other homes where “practical, cost-effective and affordable” by 2035. However, the focus is on businesses, who will be supported to boost energy productivity (a measure of efficiency) by 20% by 2030.
Environment. Commitments to protect and enhance our natural resources include planting 11 million trees and protecting peatlands, which help slow climate change by storing vast reserves of carbon. There is also a reference to aligning support for agriculture with addressing climate change and protecting nature – this will be an important area for future policy as we leave the EU and await a delayed 25 year plan from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Offshore wind. Plans to work with industry could add substantially to the UK’s offshore wind capacity, which is already the largest in the world. More money will be made available for an auction process already crediting with halving the cost of offshore wind over the last two years.
Clearly additional action to bring UK decarbonisation in line with the UK Climate Change Act is critical. The strategy mentions that permission within the Act to use ‘flexibilities’ (such as the purchase of international carbon credits) could be used in place of deeper cuts to domestic emissions; something that undermines collective international action on climate change and which the Committee on Climate Change, who independently advise the government, have already come out in opposition to.
Successful climate action in the UK will need continued commitment and support from politicians, as well as concrete plans and policies that both build on the Clean Growth strategy and address opportunities given little support in the plan (such as solar power and onshore wind).
Ask your MP to support building on the goals in the Clean Growth strategy, and about how its aims for improved energy efficiency, green transport and a high quality natural environment will be realised in your constituency. Read our resources on having an effective conversation with your MP here, and click on the buttons below for further information on the above issues.