Government updates (some) green policies as part of revamped Net-Zero Growth Plan
The Government has today (30 March) published a “growth plan” for its net-zero target, which details what recommendations 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 acts as the Government’s official response to the Independent Review on the Net-Zero Strategy, which was led by Chris Skidmore. That Review detailed 129 recommendations across key sectors such as the built environment, renewable energy, green finance and nature.
The new document also fulfills 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 to the Review focuses on the 25 recommendations made for up to 2025 and the document states that the Government will “partly or fully” act upon 23 of the 25 recommendations. This includes establishing an industry taskforce for solar and a delivery roadmap, establishing Great British Nuclear and producing a roadmap later in 2023 and has accepted the recommendation that the Government “should commit to outlining a clear approach to gas vs. electricity ‘rebalancing’ by the end of 2023/4”.
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 UK Government believes this will “turbocharge delivery” of the Net-Zero Strategy.
The document claims that the Government’s path to net-zero “is still the right one” and 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.
It notes that between 1990 and 2021, UK emissions have fallen by 48%, while the economy has grown by 65%. The Government also explains that it has leveraged around £100bn of private investment in a bid to support more than 480,000 jobs by 2030.
The new Growth Plan does agree to partly or fully implement key recommendations listed by the CCC and the Skidmore Review moving forward. Here, edie rounds up the key additions to the UK’s efforts to reach net-zero.
The Growth Plan features 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 the Government states this will be followed “shortly” by similar documents for heat pumps, as well as updated roadmaps on CCUS, and hydrogen.
The Government will also publish a roadmap to” guide nature positive investment in key sectors” by 2024.
Oil and gas
Reports still persist that the Government may approve the controversial Rosebank development this week, but the new Growth Plan does spell out efforts to align the oil and gas sector with the net-zero target.
It notes that the Government has introduced a “Climate Compatibility Checkpoint” to ensure new licensing approvals take into account the UK’s climate ambitions.
The Independent Review of Net Zero and the Climate Change Committee made several recommendations for oil and gas production. However, the Government has declined one key recommendation 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 is featured heavily in the Government’s Energy Security Plan, which has also been published today. The Government states that when combined with the Growth Plan and the new Green Finance Strategy, the Energy Security Plan outlines how the net-zero transition can be delivered at the benefit of all parts of society.
Most of the clean energy plans detailed in the Growth Plan are explained in more detail in the Energy Security Plan. Read edie’s in-depth coverage here. Broadly, the Growth Plan claims that 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.
One of the headline announcements in the new Energy Security Strategy is that the Government will unveil the first projects eligible for funding in order to create “carbon capture clusters” in key industrial locations.
The project announcements will form part of the £20bn that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ringfenced for CCUS technologies at this month’s Budget.
As for the Growth Plan, it confirms that the Government will introduce a wider, sectoral strategy and vision for CCS to “raise confidence and improve visibility for investors”. This was suggested by the Skidmore Review.
The Growth Plan also confirms that negotiations will start with Net Zero Teesside Power in a bid to create the nation’s first large-scale CCUS power project.
Buildings and Heating
With buildings accounting for around 20% of total UK emissions, and having increased by 5% since 2019, the Growth Plan states that emissions in the sector could fall by 7% to 17% on average over 2023- 27, 25% to 37% by 2030 and 47% to 61% on average over 2033-37. The Government is still due to publish a Carbon Budget Delivery Plan outlining these estimates in more detail.
The Growth Plan does agree to implement a key recommendation of the Skidmore Review to extend the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to 2028. New regulatory and public spending measures will also be introduced to “make heat pumps as cheap to buy and run as fossil fuel boilers” and to install at least 600,000 heat pumps annually by 2028.
Additionally, a full consultation on the Future Homes Standard and Future Building Standard will be issued at some point this year, while a regulatory framework for heat networks and zoning will be introduced by 2025.
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 by 2% to 8% on average over 2023-27 27% to 39% by 2030 and 61% to 73% on average over 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 Growth Plan commits the Government to 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.
Also based on the Skidmore Review, the Active Travel England initiative will “provide extensive funding and support local authorities” on the development of new walking, wheeling, and cycling routes across England.
A Zero Emission Road Freight Demonstration for hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric technologies will be put in place by March 2025.
In 2021, agriculture and other land use emissions accounted for around 11% of total UK net GHG emissions and have decreased by 25% since 1990. The Growth Plan estimates that emissions could fall by 1% to 12% on average over 2023-27, 11% to 24% by 2030 and 19% to 37% on average over 2033-37.
The Growth Plan agrees to a handful of nature-related recommendations from the Skidmore Review. Firstly, the Government will publish a Land Use Framework for England this year.
Additionally, a mandatory methodology for voluntary food eco-labelling will be developed and a Biomass Strategy will also be created this year. The Strategy “will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this resource could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve the government’s net zero and wider environmental commitments”.
Greenhouse Gas Removals
As set out in the original Net Zero Strategy, the Government has an ambition to deploy at least 5 MtCO2e annually of engineered removals (GGRs) by 2030, potentially rising to 23 MtCO2e by 2035/
The Growth Plan states that the Government will publish responses and the next of a GGR business model, and how BECCS could be incorporated into this. Additionally, the Government will consider whether GGRs should be incorporated into the UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS).
On the UK ETS, the Government will respond to the consultation this year and the Growth Plan also states that the ETS will be legislated beyond 2030 and until at least 2050 to “give the private sector the certainty they need to invest in decarbonisation”.
The Growth Plan notes that the Government plans 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 industry by 2050.
Recognising that there are many barriers to electrification such as a secure supply of energy and grid access, the Government will launch a call for evidence this year on industrial electrification.
The Plan also notes that decarbonising industry cannot be “undermined by carbon leakage” and has today launched an “Addressing Carbon Leakage Risk to Support Decarbonisation” consultation.
Finance is referenced in the Growth Plan but is largely limited to what has been included in the newly launched Green Finance Strategy – read edie’s coverage here.
The Growth Plan does reiterate that the UK Infrastructure Bank will deploy £22bn for net-zero initiatives, while the British Business Bank, UK Research and Innovation, and the UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance, will all continue to support green technologies.
The Growth Plan also confirms that by the end of 2023, the Government will consult on its new green taxonomy.
The Government will also publish the UK’s International Climate Finance Strategy. The Strategy details how £11.6bn will be spent on international climate finance up to 2026 as part of the promised contributions to the UNFCCC commitment to mobilise $100bn climate finance a year for developing countries.
It is estimated that since November 2020, more than 80,000 green jobs are currently supported, or in the pipeline across the UK economy due to Government interventions, the report notes. This is still well short of the Government’s own target of 480,000 jobs by 2030.
The Growth Plan commits the Government to publishing a “joint government-industry Net Zero and Nature Workforce Action Plan” in the first half of 2024.
Embedding Net Zero in Government
The Government has long been criticised for failing to embed green policies across different departments and 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.
HM Treasury will continue to work with departments to build climate impact assessment capability, the plan also states. It also confirms that Government will work with the Modern Energy Partners programme and publish a suite of public sector decarbonisation guidance in spring 2023.
It has also been confirmed that the next phase of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme will open to applications in Autumn 2023.