It’s impossible to ignore the effects increasing carbon-emissions are having on the global climate; be it the consistently extreme weather around the globe, or the attribution of air pollution levels on human health.
So, when the government released a 164-page document last month detailing huge investment in green economic growth, it was welcomed with open arms
The long-delayed, much-anticipated, Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) details new policies and proposals for ‘decarbonising’ all sectors of the UK economy, delivering increased economic growth through renewable and sustainable sources, i.e. ‘clean growth’.
This focus on clean growth can “cut the cost of energy, drive economic prosperity, create high value jobs and improve our quality of life,” said Claire Perry, the Climate Change and Industry Minister.
The plan has set out measures which will be used to help cut emissions from electricity, transport, buildings and heating, assisted by the newly-formed Green Finance Taskforce, comprising senior leaders from the finance sector and government, created to keep the strategy and its policies on track.
With a clear focus on low carbon innovation, the CGS will look to invest over £2.5 billion from 2015 to 2021, representing the largest increase in public spending since 1979. This funding will be far reaching, covering programmes in the energy, transport, agriculture and waste sectors.
The ambitious move will see a plethora of new clean energy jobs created – on top of the current 430,000 that exist in low-carbon businesses – across the UK for decades to come. This would reignite British manufacturing, potentially delivering between £60 billion and £170 billion of export sales of goods and services by 2030, with the low carbon economy estimated to grow by 11 percent yearly up until this date.
The release of this strategy will certainly have pleased offshore wind farm developers who have been guaranteed a further £550 million of subsidies, creating the potential for doubling the UK’s current offshore wind capacity.
As well as this offshore wind backing, other sustainable technologies have been guaranteed a piece of the pie.
Low-carbon transport has been promised £1 billion worth of support, which would include helping consumers with the upfront costs of electric car ownership, along with the development of a leading charging infrastructure, although specifics of this scheme have not yet been released. This does, however, nicely accompany the proposed ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from the year 2040.
Another promising move is the news that carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been given renewed support after falling out of favour under George Osbourne’s supervision in 2015, with carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) being given a £100 million investment along with the announcement of a CCUS council.
“For many, there has been a real recent frustration with ‘stop-start’ policy approaches,” said Nick Blyth, policy lead at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. “It is encouraging that some commitments are returning through this new plan.”
The improvement in energy efficiency of homes has been outlined in the new strategy, with the government aiming to support £3.6 billion of investment to upgrade around a million homes through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). On top of this, all ‘fuel poor’ homes are to be upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030 and as many homes as possible to be EPC Band C by 2035.
These policies combine fittingly with the two new £10 million innovation programmes being put in place to develop new energy efficiency and heating technologies, along with improving energy efficiency of existing buildings, to enable lower cost, low-carbon homes.
Although this plan sets out 50 separate policies which will be put to action over the coming years, commentators have suggested the UK would still fall short of meeting the fifth carbon budget covering the 2028-32 period by 10 per cent.
“By the government’s own calculations, these proposals will put us on track to miss both our fourth and fifth carbon budgets,” said Alan Whitehead, the Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change. Critical of the CGS, he also claimed it failed in its task of outlining a clear path to reaching climate targets.
The government, however, insists any likely acceleration in private sector innovation could help push the UK to meeting the budgets.
Whilst the CGS is broad, many have complained at the lack of details and specifics with which the government intends to achieve its aspirations, as well as measuring the plan’s success. Yet, with such attention being placed on green innovation and development, it’s positive to see a serious proactive approach regarding clean energy and economic growth.