The UK government claimed it is still on track to meet its international climate commitments under the Paris Agreement despite admitting its policies will achieve only 92% of cuts in its latest Net Zero Growth Plan.
The government recently published its “growth plan” for its net zero targets that will be integrated into policy following Chris Skidmore’s Review of the Net Zero Strategy and the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) annual progress suggestions.
The Net Zero Growth Plan is the government’s official response to the Independent Review of the UK net zero strategies. The review had detailed 129 recommendations across sectors such as the built environment, renewable energy, green finance, and nature.
The new document also fulfils a statutory obligation to respond to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) 2022 Progress Report to Parliament; and details a carbon budget delivery update. The government also claims the 126-page report will outline what steps will be introduced to “strengthen the delivery” of the UK’s net zero goal.
The government’s response focuses on the 25 recommendations made for up to 2025, stating that it will “partly or fully” act upon 23 of the 25 recommendations. This includes establishing an industry task force for solar and a delivery roadmap, establishing Great British Nuclear and producing a roadmap later in 2023.
With the original net zero strategy deemed unlawful by the High Court, the new document attempts to incorporate the recommendations proposed by the CCC and the Skidmore Review.
The government claims the new document details that their path to net zero “is still the right one”. Additionally, it doesn’t mention the court ruling or any of the warnings listed by green groups and the Skidmore Review that inaction could derail the net zero transition.
The Growth Plan does agree to partly or fully implement key recommendations listed by the CCC and the Skidmore Review moving forward. The key additions to the UK’s efforts to reach net zero are listed below.
The Growth Plan includes various commitments to publish net zero aligned roadmaps for key sectors and technologies that will “articulate investment needs by sector and summarise the relevant government policy and opportunities to support investment decisions.”
An offshore wind roadmap has already been published and will be followed “shortly” by similar documents for heat pumps, as well as updated roadmaps on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), and hydrogen. The government will publish a roadmap to “guide nature positive investment in key sectors” by 2024.
Oil and gas
The government may still approve the controversial Rosebank oil and gas field development, but the new Growth Plan does spell out efforts to align the oil and gas sector with the net zero targets. It notes that the Government has introduced a “Climate Compatibility Checkpoint” to ensure new licensing approvals take into account the UK’s climate ambitions.
However, the Government has rejected to move the end date for routine flaring from 2030 to 2025. The Government claims that the 2030 target is “already challenging” due to the costs of retrofitting needed to meet its current goals.
Carbon capture and power
Carbon capture represents a huge part of the Government’s Energy Security Plan and Growth Plan, which outlines how the net zero transition can be delivered for the benefit of all aspects of society. The Growth Plan argues decarbonising the power sector while meeting a potential 60% increase in electricity demand in the 2030s could bring forward £275 – £375bn of investment from both the private and public sectors.
The new Energy Security Strategy unveiled the first projects eligible for funding to create “carbon capture clusters” in key industrial locations and forms part of the £20bn that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ringfenced for CCUS technologies in this month’s Budget.
As of 2021, transport emissions accounted for 25% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. The Growth Plan estimates that emissions from this sector could fall between 2%-8% on average over 2023-27, 27%-39% by 2030 and 61%-73% on average between 2033-37.
The Growth Plan references many commitments made in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan but also features new commitments based on CCC advice and the Skidmore Review.
The government will publish a Low Carbon Fuels Strategy this year, based on the Skidmore Review recommendation. This plan will spell out the role that these fuels will play in reaching net zero by 2050.
The Growth Plan details how the Government is set to replace 50TWh of fossil fuels per year by 2035 to support industrial fuel switching and that electrification could reduce annual emissions by between 7 and 19 MtCO2e, contributing between 15% and 40% of the necessary carbon abatement in the industry by 2050.
The report estimates since November 2020, more than 80,000 green jobs have been supported, or are in the pipeline across the UK economy due to Government interventions. This is still well short of the Government’s own target of 480,000 jobs by 2030.
The Growth Plan commits the Government to publish a “joint government-industry Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan” in the first half of 2024.
Immersing Net Zero in Government
The Government has previously been criticised for failing to prioritise green policies across different departments. The Growth Plan attempts to remedy that by adopting some recommendations from the CCC and the Skidmore Review.
The Plan states that the Government will “share further detail” on what tools and processes it uses to inform internal policy decisions and will publish the findings of a review that assesses how often emissions data is published. It has also been confirmed that the next phase of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will open to applications in Autumn 2023.
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