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Government publishes strategy to combat climate change

Words: Laura Edgar
Offshore wind farm / iStock_52304272

Energy secretary Greg Clark has published the government’s plans to cut carbon emissions to address climate change and drive economic growth.

The Clean Growth Strategy: Leading The Way To A Low Carbon Future lays out how the UK can benefit from low-carbon opportunities through new technology and businesses that create jobs and improve prosperity.

This follows an announcement on 11 October by energy minister Richard Harrington that up to £557 million will be available for the next clean electricity auctions, including Scottish island wind projects.

The strategy sets out how over £2.5 billion will support low-carbon innovation from 2015 to 2021, covering energy, transport, agriculture and waste programmes.

Of the £2.5 billion, £505 million comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Energy Innovation Programme.

According to The Clean Growth Strategy, this £505 million will go towards:

  • £10 million – innovations that provide low-carbon heat in domestic and commercial buildings;
  • £10 million – improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings;
  • £14 million – Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, including a new sixth fund;
  • £20 million – for a Carbon Capture and Utilisation demonstration programme; and
  • £20 million – support for clean technology early stage funding.

The strategy considers how to improve homes, with £3.6 billion allocated to upgrade a million homes through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and to extend support for home energy efficiency improvements from 2022 to 2028 at least at the current level of ECO funding.

Fuel-poor homes are set to be upgraded to Energy Performance Certificate Band C by 2030. The government says its aim is to have as many homes as possible graded Band C by 2035.

The government also plans to improve the energy performance standards of privately rented homes and improve them to Band C by 2030.

The strategy includes the already announced commitment to end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, which forms parts of the government’s plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide and improve air quality.

It sets out plans to spend £1 billion on the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles, develop “one of the best vehicle charging networks in the world” and invest £841 million of public funds on innovation in low-carbon transport technology and fuels.

The Clean Growth Strategy also includes:

  • A commitment to phase out the use of unabated coal to produce electricity by 2025.
  • A pledge to work with the industry as it develops a Sector Deal for offshore wind.
  • Deliver nuclear power through Hinkley Point C.
  • Establish a new network of forests in England.
  • Publish a new Resources and Waste Strategy.
  • Acknowledgement that wave and tidal energy could have a role in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK.
  • Recognition of “new innovation opportunities”, such as floating offshore wind platforms and advanced solar PV technologies.

Clark said: “This government has put clean growth at the heart of its Industrial Strategy to increase productivity, boost people’s earning power and ensure Britain continues to lead the world in efforts to tackle climate change.

“For the first time in a generation, the British government is leading the way on taking decisions on new nuclear, rolling out smart meters and investing in low-carbon innovation. The world is moving from being powered by polluting fossil fuels to clean energy. It’s as big a change as the move from the age of steam to the age of oil and Britain is showing the way.”

Claire Perry, minister for climate change and industry, added: “The impact of the Paris agreement and the unstoppable global shift towards low-carbon technologies gives the UK an unparalleled opportunity.

“By focusing on clean growth, we can cut the cost of energy, drive economic prosperity, create high-value jobs and improve our quality of life.”

Hugh McNeal, chief executive at RenewablesUK, said: “This government has unveiled an ambitious plan which sets us firmly on a course to deliver the modern, clean energy system which the UK needs. Ministers are seizing the global opportunity to lead on low-carbon economic growth. It’s great to see a commitment in the strategy to the development of a Sector Deal for offshore wind, and to see wave and tidal energy, and floating offshore wind, specifically recognised for their enormous potential. We also welcome the announcement that island wind projects will have the opportunity to compete in future auctions”.

“The government is clear that clean growth is a priority for the UK, and that the low-carbon sector can help to increase the competitiveness and productivity of our economy in the decades ahead, creating high-value jobs as well as taking effective action on climate change. However, what’s missing is clarity on how the lowest-cost technology, onshore wind, can deliver for UK consumers.”

Speaking to The Planner, Ben Kite, managing director at EPR, said many of the elements in the strategy won’t be completely new to the development and planning community.

“The plans for using green spaces for carbon capture are helpful, and hint at opportunities to complement the value of new development by using sustainable initiatives and green infrastructure. However, details on the means by which this value can be harnessed to benefit the economy are rather thin. Commitments to real action are largely deferred to the forthcoming 25 year environment plan, exacerbating the false perception that the economy and the environment are self-contained systems with little reliance on each other.

“The improved role that nature could play in providing more cost-effective flood alleviation for our towns and cities, and the astonishing health and wellbeing benefits provided by well-designed green spaces are both underplayed. However, fortunately planners and developers are becoming increasingly cognisant of the added commercial value that biodiversity and green infrastructure can yield. Natural assets increase in value in line with the benefits they provide.”

Gus Wood, partner at law firm Gowling WLG, said: "It’s great news that there is a further auction for developing technologies – in which we can again expect offshore wind to dominate, building on the low prices which caught most commentators by surprise last month. However, a number of statements coming out of fringe events at the recent Conservative Party conference had suggested that maybe onshore wind was creeping back on to the political agenda, in which context it’s disappointing that an auction for developed technologies has not been announced (though not unexpected). Nevertheless, we can expect renewed calls for a developed technology auction with a low cap that ensures value for consumers."

Friends of the Earth senior climate campaigner Simon Bullock said: “This strategy is a welcome change in the politics of climate change in the Conservative Party. While the plan has some huge gaps the government is rightly presenting tackling climate change as a massive opportunity for economic rebirth, and for Britain to lead the world.

“But clearly there is far more actual policy needed – the plan does not deliver on UK targets for cutting emissions, let alone the more ambitious Paris climate agreement, and some parts of government are still firmly stuck in a rut of more fossil fuels, roads and runways.”

Read more:

The Clean Growth Strategy (pdf)

Ministerial statement from Claire Perry

Over £500m for next clean energy auctions

Leading role for local authorities in UK plan to improve air quality

Image credit | iStock