At a glance: All the key announcements in the Net-Zero Strategy

The UK Government has finally published its Net-Zero Strategy, a comprehensive run-through of how the nation will decarbonise in a way that "transforms every sector of the global economy", although some green groups don't believe the steps outlined in the Strategy can mobilise action to deliver net-zero by 2050.

The strategy collects all previous climate commitments as well as building on them

The strategy collects all previous climate commitments as well as building on them

With a little over one week to go until the start of COP26 in Glasgow, the UK Government has on Tuesday (19 October) published its long-awaited Net-Zero Strategy.

The 368-page document outlines how spending will be prioritised to deliver job growth while reducing emissions from transport, power, heavy industry and the built environment.

"The UK's path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries - powering our green industrial revolution across the country," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. "By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way."

The policies and spending brought forward in the Net Zero Strategy mean that since the Ten Point Plan was introduced last year, the Government has introduced more than £26bn in capital investment geared towards net-zero.

The Strategy claims this will support up to 190,000 jobs by 2025, and up to 440,000 jobs by 2030, and leverage up to £90bn of private investment by 2030.

Here, edie explores the key pillars of the UK economy and how the Government aims to transform them to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Power

The Net-Zero Strategy has a heavy focus on power. Earlier this year, the UK Government confirmed that plans to end unabated fossil-fuelled electricity generation by 2035, floated by Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party Conference, would be enshrined in law.

As well as reiterating that commitment, the Strategy outlines that the UK will support 59,000 jobs by 2024 and up to 120,000 by 2030. This will be facilitated by mobilising between £150-£270bn in public and private investment.

Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK to host 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 is reiterated as a cornerstone of the strategy, as is the recently announced target for floating offshore wind, committing to hosting 1GW by 2030. On floating offshore, the Strategy points to the North and Celtic Seas as potential hotspots for deployment and the technology will be back by £380m in funding.

While renewables are touted as a key driver in decarbonising the grid, the Strategy earmarks £120m in new investments for a Future Nuclear Enabling Fund, retaining options for future nuclear technologies, including Small Modular Reactors.

Hydrogen, oil and gas

The Strategy emphasises that not all sectors can rely on electrification to reach net-zero. As such, the Strategy outlines the role that hydrogen can play in providing low-carbon energy.

According to the Government, hydrogen can support up to 10,000 jobs by 2030 in fuel supply alone and the Strategy commits to mobilising between £20-30bn in investment as part of an existing plan to deliver 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030. This, the Strategy claims, will halve emissions from oil and gas.

The Government has already set up the Industrial Decarbonisation and Hydrogen Revenue Support (IDHRS) scheme to fun new hydrogen and carbon capture clusters. The Strategy notes that up to £140m will be provided here, including up to £100m to award contracts of up to 250MW of electrolytic hydrogen production capacity in 2023 with further allocation in 2024.

In August’s Hydrogen Strategy, BEIS stated that it will take a “twin-track” approach, supporting both green hydrogen – produced by splitting water using electrolysers powered with renewable energy – and blue hydrogen, produced by splitting natural gas and capturing most process emissions with man-made technologies. This approach has proven controversial among green groups, as carbon capture technology is in its relative infancy at a commercial scale. Moreover, blue hydrogen production facilities cannot easily be retrofitted to become green.

Further detail on the “twin-track” plans will be provided early next year in a separate hydrogen sector strategy for production.

However, the Net-Zero Strategy confirms that a new “climate compatibility checkpoint” will be introduced for future licensing on the UK Continental Shelf, with the oil and gas industry to be regulated through a revised strategy to reduce emissions. The Government has faced numerous legal challenges over its oil and gas policies and while the UK's oil and gas industry has published a strategy designed to align businesses with the 2050 net-zero target, green groups want more done to cap production and increase investment in renewables.

Heavy industry

As mentioned, the Government is keen to utilise low-carbon solutions like hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) to decarbonise industrial clusters and the Net-Zero Strategy outlines steps to decarbonising heavy industry as a whole.

The Strategy outlines steps aimed at supporting 54,000 jobs by 2030. This will be kickstarted through £14bn in public/private investment at minimum, which in turn will deliver four CCUS clusters and capture 20-30 MtCO2 across the economy, including 6 MtCO2 of industrial emissions, per year by 2030.

The Hynet and East Coast Clusters will act as the economic hubs and a testing ground for decarbonisation. This puts Teesside and the Humber, Merseyside and North Wales, along with the North East of Scotland as “reserve clusters”, the Strategy notes.

The Government will also aim to “incentivise cost-effective abatement” across industry. This will be delivered through the UK Emissions Trading System and the Government will consult with business on a cap consistent with net-zero. This will be introduced in partnership with the Devolved Administrations.

Heat and Buildings

The official Heat and Buildings Strategy was launched on Monday (19 October) and is reiterated in the Net-Zero Strategy.

The Government will aim to support up to 100,000 green jobs across the built environment by the mid-2020s, rising to 175,000 by 2030. Investment here will reach around £200bn.

As outlined in the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Government will aim to ensure that all new heating appliances in homes and workplaces from 2035 are low carbon. This will be facilitated through a £450m boiler upgrade scheme for homes as part of a broader £3.9bn funding package.

The Strategy also includes previously confirmed funding for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme and Home Upgrade Grants (reaching £1.75bn) and £1.425bn for Public Sector Decarbonisation, with the aim of reducing emissions from public sector buildings by 75% by 2037.

The Government is focusing on energy efficiency upgrades for the built environment, but the strategy mentions little about buildings standards and the role they can play in improving the overall efficiency of housing and non-domestic stocks.

Transport

Transport is the UK’s highest emitting sector and decarbonisation levels have stagnated in recent years.

Earlier this year, the Government moved forward the commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030, with an extra mandate that all cars must be zero-emissions capable by 2035. The Net-Zero Strategy aims to build on this by ensuring consumers have a smooth transition to electric vehicles (EVs). “A zero-emission vehicle mandate to improve consumer choice”, the Strategy notes.

Additionally, £620m will be made for zero-emission vehicles and EV infrastructure (although the Government doesn’t disclose how this is split). A further £350m will be invested on top of the existing £1bn Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains.

Trials for low-carbon Heavy Goods Vehicles will also continue to take place, although no ringfenced funding has been provided.

Existing commitments, including £2bn to make sure half of journeys in towns and cities are cycled or walked by 2030, £3bn to create new bus networks, delivering 4,000 zero-emission buses and creating a net-zero rail network by 2050 are all included.

Overall, the Government believes it can support 22,000 jobs across the transport sector on the road to net-zero by 2024, rising to 74,000 by 2030. Investments surpassing £220bn will need to be delivered, the Strategy notes.

Nature and biodiversity

The Net-Zero Strategy commits the UK Government to boost the existing £640m Nature for Climate Fund with an additional £124m, ensuring that at least £750m will be spent by 2025 on peat restoration, woodland creation and management.

Another commitment will include restoring approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and trebling woodland creation rates in England. This, the Strategy claims, will contribute to an overall target of increasing planting rates to 30,000 hectares per year by the end of the Parliament.

Greenhouse Gas Removals

The Net-Zero Strategy outlines ambitions for the UK to remove emissions from the atmosphere, contributing to the “net” aspect of its net-zero target.

The Government will mobilise around £20bn in funding in a bit to deploy at least 5 MtCO2 /year of engineered (greenhouse gas removals) GGRs by 2030.

This aspect remains largely undefined in the Strategy, however, with the Government pointing to ways to explore regulation of the market and incentivising private investment as current stumbling blocks for action.

Read reaction from the green economy here.

Matt Mace



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