Webinar with the Green Alliance’s head of policy Dustin Benton

Georgina Collins

Last Monday Hope For The Future held its second ever webinar - and the last of our webinars which are part of our free trial period. We were joined by the Green Alliance’s head of policy Dustin Benton to talk about the Government’s Net Zero target. Since our previous webinar two weeks before, Theresa May announced that she would be putting down an amendment to the Climate Change 2008 to bind the Government to eliminating the UK’s carbon footprint by 2050. Consequently, we chose to question Dustin on the specifics of what the MPs and councillors should be doing  to keep the UK on track to reach this target, and what constituents and activists can do to keep the pressure on. You will find the answers below.

The webinar focused on the Green Alliance’s Acting on Net Zero Now report which you can find here

1)      Could you summarise for us again what policies would help us move more rapidly to Net Zero?

Five policies would get the UK on track (in 2030) to net zero (by 2050): a ban on sales of new petrol, diesel, and non-plug in hybrid vehicles in 2030; an industrial resource efficiency strategy; a big domestic energy efficiency retrofit programme; a plan to grow new forests, restore peatlands, and help farmers store carbon in their soils; and a reversal of the de-facto ban on onshore wind and solar power.

  2)      There is increasing concern about the impact electric vehicles have on the environment. Particularly the energy use, social impact and damage in other countries in order for us to meet low carbon goals. We need to make sure policy and engineering is tied together- how are you analysing the engineering required behind these ideas?

Electric vehicles are not a panacea, but they are a big part of the solution. They dramatically lower carbon emissions, noise and air pollution, but do nothing to address urban congestion. They also require materials (notably cobalt) which are often unsustainably mined. To address this, our research has shown that the UK could source about half its demand for cobalt from recycling by 2035 (http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Completing_the_circle.pdf), and we could keep vehicles for longer, which reduces the amount of materials we need to mine. Their energy impacts are much lower than fossil cars, but they will still require new electricity generation: the good news is that their batteries can help firm the grid. By 2030, the UK could have twice the energy storage in EV batteries than all the pumped hydro in the alps (a key component of the continent’s energy system) (see http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/People_power_how_consumer_choice_is_changing_UK_energy_system.pdf).

 3)      How does the report address shipping and aviation as they are not addressed in the 2008 Climate Change Act?

It doesn’t. We support the CCC’s recommendation that these are included in the UK’s domestic carbon budgets, and are doing some work now on pathways to 1.5c compatible aviation.

  4)      How do we encourage local councils to stop building so many roads?

For better or worse, I think the most effective tactic at local level is peaceful protest. The evidence against roadbuilding is pretty solid: more roads creates more traffic demand, and with the real cost of motoring falling (due to a freeze in fuel duty), this is less a case of lack of evidence and instead an example of government doing something it has always done without very much reflection on how roads often wreck places.

 5)      Does Net Zero 2050 legislation included Green Houses Gases imbedded in imported goods?

It doesn’t – the law just covers territorial emissions. Our work on this suggests that resource efficiency in industrial products would save 2-3 times as much emissions overseas (arising from our consumption) as it saves in territorial emissions (those generated in the UK). Much more detail on this issue is available here: https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/City_consumption_the_new_opportunity_for_climate_action.pdf

  6)      What do you think of a government requirement for ministerial cars to be electric ?

Yes please! It is symbolic (there are only 85 ministerial cars), but a useful symbol.

  7)      What are the current governments incentives for domestic implementation e.g. of heat pumps and solar etc.

These are implemented via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which is due to run out in 2020, and the Energy Company Oblivation (ECO) scheme, which supported around 90% less insulation than its predecessor scheme. The government cancelled its support for solar panels earlier this year. All in all, government incentives for domestic change are in steep decline, and are in any case inadequate.