Reaction round-up: What does the green economy make of the Clean Growth Strategy?

The Government has pledged numerous multi-billion-pound investments to drive down carbon emissions across the economy as part of the Clean Growth Strategy, but does it "breathe new life" into the low-carbon sector or do the details "fall short"?

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy efficiency and offshore wind power all play a prominent role in the Government’s landmark Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out how the Government intends to meet the fifth carbon budget, which seeks to limit the UK’s annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032.

The Government has unveiled how more than £2.5bn will be spent on low-carbon innovation, while a “package of measures” has been included to support business to improve energy productivity by at least 20% by 2030.

The uptake of zero-emission vehicles and the energy performance of domestic buildings are prominent features in what is ultimately an ambitious and sweeping strategy. But as experts of the green economy sweep through the 165-page document, is the devil actually in the detail?

Will history repeat itself?

Despite valid criticisms over the delay to the strategy, the UK has established itself as a leader of the decarbonisation transition. The UK has been more successful than any other G7 nation at decoupling emissions growth from that of the economy over the past 25 years – emissions are down 42% while the economy has grown by 67%.

Already, more than 430,000 jobs have been created in low-carbon businesses and supply chains and the Strategy outlines that the low-carbon economy could grow 11% annually between now and 2030 – around four times faster than the rest of the economy.

However, experts have warned that the UK will miss out on its climate targets unless significant improvements are made to decarbonise well-documented problem areas such as heat and transport. The UK is less than half way to meeting its low-carbon heat targets, while the share of renewables in transport fuel has flatlined at 4.75%.

Meanwhile, a report from the Committee on Climate Change, published in June, found that Ministers would need to identify 80-100 TWh of additional low-carbon generation by the end of the next decade to meet its fifth carbon budget targets.

The green economy reacts

The UK is essentially at a crossroads, where its past work as a climate leader could come unravelled over the next few years as Brexit negotiations take priority. To provide you with expert analysis of the strategy, edie has rounded-up the leading voices of the industry to provide insight.

Professor Sam Fankhauser, director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change

“The Clean Growth Strategy recognises that the transition to low-carbon growth should be at the heart of the UK’s industrial policy over the next few decades, bringing greater prosperity, higher living standards and enhanced wellbeing.

“Explicitly the true test of this Strategy is whether it will deliver the emissions reductions required by 2030 according to the fifth carbon budget. There is much to praise in the Clean Growth Strategy but there are also many aspirations rather than tangible policy commitments.  For instance, the Strategy is notably vague on industrial energy efficiency. The Strategy is also missing some key elements, such as how the government proposes to establish a sufficiently strong carbon price before and after Brexit.”

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group

“The importance of positive government messaging on the low carbon agenda for investment confidence is often overlooked and today’s clear cross-government commitment to deliver on the UK’s climate targets will be welcomed by businesses. Recent announcements in the offshore wind and car manufacturing industries have highlighted how a clear vision, supported by detailed policies, enable the private sector to drive innovation, cut the costs of clean technologies and invest in UK jobs and supply chains.”

Jonathan Church, lawyer of ClientEarth

“The UK government is still in breach of the Climate Change Act. The UK is on course to miss its 2023-2027 emissions reductions targets by 116MtCO2e – equivalent to more than the Philippines’ emissions in a whole year – and the Clean Growth Strategy does not fix this. For too long the government has been undermining policy stability and failing to plan for the future. Now, we need a firm commitment to say how the UK will decarbonise. Good intentions are no longer good enough.

“The government had promised to re-start reporting, which has been on hold for the last five years. We welcome today’s commitment to update the plan annually and report against milestones, but these are just promises for now.”

Louise Kingham, chief executive of the Energy Institute

“This breathes new life into decarbonising the UK and the skills that will make it happen. Taking energy efficiency seriously in homes, businesses and industry will cut emissions, bring down bills and increase productivity more effectively than anything else.

“Putting CCS back at the table and action to tackle emissions from heat, alongside renewables, nuclear and electric vehicles make this a credible plan. The strategy is really important for the UK’s standing on the global climate change stage, as we look to the next round of UN talks hosted by Fiji in Bonn next month. But meeting the UK’s carbon targets is ultimately a numbers game and the real proof will be in the delivery.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK

“The strategy is in on the right track but we need a more ambitious destination. Our small country could be a big power on low carbon solutions if we keep up the momentum, especially on energy efficiency and electric vehicles. The government’s punt on offshore wind has already paid off in spectacular style, and proves that clean technology, ambitious developers and government support are a winning combination.

“A smart, efficient and renewable-powered electricity system is possible. And the offshore wind industry is proof you can provide jobs and regional development at low cost without leaving a legacy of nuclear waste and exorbitant decommissioning costs.”

Simon Bullock, senior climate campaigner of Friends of the Earth

“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.”

Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association

“The language, ambition and recommitment from Government to lower emissions are welcome, as is the recognition that decarbonisation and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact linked in the coming decades.

“The plan focuses on areas that have not been given a huge amount of time or thought to previously in government, such as industrial efficiency or the built environment, both of which are crucial and can be a win-win.

“However, for many of our members they will see very little substance in this plan and we will have to ensure we are pushing government for how they intend to address the big issues of adding low-carbon generation, greening our heat system, cleaning our transport and leading the decentralisation revolution that will lead to a cheaper and low-carbon future.”

Jonathan Wills, chief executive of the Energy Technologies Institute

“The Clean Growth Strategy sets out an economic opportunity and challenge; one which drives a clean, green economy for the future. But we are running out of time to make this happen. This strategy signals the needed investment in infrastructure which will take a generation to implement, so we must make decisions fast and commit to making it happen. Certainty of direction and constancy of market signal is important. To realise the opportunities will need sustained commitment over multiple political cycles and a consistency of purpose that stimulates investment.

“There are no silver bullets to decarbonisation. If we are to achieve an affordable transition to a low carbon energy system and meet the legally binding climate targets, we believe the answer is a blended mix of renewables, including nuclear, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), gaseous fuels as well as a greater efficiency in buildings, industry and transport. We’re pleased that this approach is reflected in the strategy announced today. We now need to combine these in a flexible and adaptable way – technically and commercially.”

Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance

“It is great to see this long-awaited strategy setting out the government’s ambitions for clean growth. It is certainly a welcome move in the right direction. The test now will be to embed the strategy across government and encourage investment in clean growth by giving businesses the certainty they need.

“Going green is not only good for the environment: it is crucial for the future of the UK economy. By taking decisive action to reduce carbon emissions at home we can take advantage of the growing global market for low carbon technology and expertise. This strategy is the opportunity to reboot the agenda on energy efficiency, clean vehicles and the efficient use of resources in the UK.”

Chris Hewett, policy manager for the Solar Trade Association

“It does seem extraordinary that when a technology as vital to the world’s future as solar is asking, not for any new public support, but for simply a level playing field with other technologies that the Government is not moving to respond. This technology will dominate global power supply in years to come so in the interests of UK plc, the Government needs to stop putting the UK solar industry at a competitive disadvantage.”

“Whether it is tax breaks for fossil fuels, a continued emphasis on big centralised power over local power, or access to auctions – solar is not being treated fairly.  Solar empowers local people and communities, and it stimulates smart innovation more than any other energy technology. That’s why communities and City leaders all over the UK want to see the Government support solar power. The British solar industry is being artificially held back by the Government and that doesn’t help consumers, innovation or local leadership.”

Jonathan Grant, sustainability director of PwC

“Analysis by PwC shows that the UK leads the G20 on clean growth and is decoupling emissions from economic growth significantly faster than its peers. The UK’s success comes down to policies that create a positive investment climate for low carbon technology, the drive to tackle emissions from coal and the strength of our services sectors. The Clean Growth Strategy should continue the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate of WWF

“The strategy’s ambition is to be welcomed, however the details fall short of what we need to lead the UK to a green and prosperous future. The news on improving homes is a victory for owners, renters and landlords; and more money for off-shore wind – the cheapest form of generation – is great news.  But overall the UK Government admits that it will miss most of its targets.

“They are not delivering the emissions reductions needed in the next decade, relying instead on past success to offset missed targets with the rapid power decarbonisation that we’ve seen to date. This risks passing on a worse situation to the next generation. The UK Government has much more work to do in putting forward credible policies to close a carbon gap of nearly 10% by 2032. We have been a global climate leader, but if we set out plans that don’t meet our own targets to meet the global threat of climate change, then we will have so much further to go to meet the more ambitious international ones agreed in Paris.”

Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at the Catholic aid agency (CAFOD)

“As a country that has grown its economy while still decarbonising, the UK can increase its international leadership on climate change, and the publication of the Clean Growth Strategy is a good start but the positive steps being put forward by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy still need greater cross-government support. 

“It’s positive that today’s strategy follows a joint UK-Canada announcement yesterday that acknowledges the future needs to be coal-free. Expert research tells us that more coal plants will deepen, not cut, global poverty, and it’s important to maintain momentum on transitioning away from coal given the disappointing news this week that the US is to abandon plans to limit emissions from coal plants.”

Dr Joanne Wade, chief executive for the Association for the Conservation of Energy

“We very much welcome the aims, targets and aspirations of the Clean Growth Strategy and recognise it as a clear step in the right direction.  The scale of the opportunity is huge, ACE research shows that the net present value to the UK is at least £45billion in energy efficiency savings (£26 billion for homes, and £20 billion for business).

“The UK’s building stock is in dire need of urgent action, which can only be delivered through policy support and fiscal incentives. We want to work with Government to develop and implement these policies.”

Bruce Davis, co-founder of Abundance Investment

“Abundance welcomes the launch of the clean growth strategy. It shows the importance of investment in the green economy for present and future generations. We look forward to working with the government to ensure we have the finance to deliver this strategy in a way that benefits both the whole UK economy and the whole population through their ISA and pension investments.”

Antony Skinner, energy partner at law firm Ashurst

“While it’s encouraging that the Government has finally published the Clean Growth Strategy, for the renewable energy industry there is still a lot of uncertainty, as much of the detail about the Government’s renewable energy policy appears to rest on the outcome of the cost of energy review currently taking place.  It’s also disappointing, but not surprising, that the next Contracts of Difference allocation round will not take place until 2019.”

Richard Molloy, business development manager of energy storage of Eaton

“To plan ahead for a cleaner, greener Britain, the government will need to work alongside industry to tackle the decarbonisation of transport. With clear set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, simply evolving current transport policies will not go far enough. Instead the sector needs to undergo a fundamental transformation to ensure transport can play a leading role in climate change mitigation.

“Demand for transport is rising but technology available today can boost the use of renewable energy in the transport sector, enabling a reduction of fossil-fuel engines and the harmful emissions they generate. A national shift to electric vehicles combined with the development of a smart grid could overhaul the transport sector in the UK.”

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman

“After nearly two years of waiting, the Government has finally come to the table with a carbon plan that has the potential to be a blueprint for achieving our long term carbon targets. FSB research highlights that 60% of small businesses say security of supply is their top energy priority. For many, this even outweighs concerns about costs and carbon emissions. It is hoped that the direction laid out by the Government’s strategy will instil some confidence for smaller firms choosing to invest in new energy technologies.

“The elephant in the room, however, remains and that is the extensive, and expensive, overhaul of the UK’s energy infrastructure and who will bear the costs. This investment will come at a heavy price for bill and tax payers. Government must guarantee that these costs are shared out equitably through a fair and transparent market.

Philip Sellwood, chief executive for the Energy Saving Trust

“We welcome the Clean Growth Strategy and the firm commitment by Government to make domestic energy efficiency a priority. Aspirations for all homes to reach an EPC ‘C’ standard by 2035 are very welcome but details on how this will be realised now have to be made an urgent priority. We now need a detailed plan setting out how we will make our homes low energy, affordable to run and healthy to live in. This means incentives for all of us to invest in home energy upgrades, a doubling of funding to help people out of fuel poverty and a commitment that all new homes are built to a zero-carbon standard.”

Roz Bulleid, head of Climate & Environment Policy of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation

“Manufacturers have been waiting some time to discover how the government intends to meet the UK’s challenging 2030 decarbonisation target and will be pleased to see a broad-ranging and well-structured report, that ties into the wider Industrial Strategy. It balances the need to offset the costs manufacturers face from decarbonisation with greater realisation of the potential opportunities across a range of product areas.

“There is also much appreciated recognition of the need for more government support for industry in key areas, including energy efficiency, heat reuse and carbon capture and storage. Industry stands ready to now work with Government to ensure we move from strategy to delivery at the earliest opportunity.”

Andy Bradley, director of business development at Delta-ee

“There’s a clear road map for progress on decarbonising our power sector; ditto on transport. What’s sorely lacking is the same for buildings and heating. It’s a difficult task and the way forward isn’t necessarily as obvious, but we’re yet to see a meaningful start on these goals – and if you don’t start, you don’t finish.”

Debbie Hammel, Director of the Land Markets Initiative, NRDC

“Under the Emissions Removal Pathway to 2050 the Government gives CCUS with bioenergy a significant role to deliver greenhouse gas savings. NRDC believes CCUS in conjunction with forest biomass in the power sector remains an unproved and damaging climate mitigation proposition in that it suffers from the same major shortcomings associated with standalone electricity production from forest biomass.

CCUS with bioenergy cannot be assumed to produce zero emissions.  Even if power plant emissions from burning forest biomass were to be fully captured and injected into the subsurface, cutting down trees for electricity would result in a lasting carbon debt and it is only in circumstances that this debt is less than emissions from fossil fuels that any benefit compared to fossil fuels could be justified.” 

James Wilde, Director of Innovation, The Carbon Trust

“The Carbon Trust welcomes a low carbon strategy that puts business and innovation at the heart of clean growth. Offshore wind and energy efficiency are two critical immediate pillars for this approach and the great strides that have been made in recent years need to be accelerated. The Offshore Wind Accelerator is a case study of how collaboration between the private sector and government can work successfully, bring down costs and accelerate clean growth. 

“We now need to drive this approach elsewhere to maximise the economic benefits clean growth and decentralised energy systems will bring to businesses that focus on the increasing low carbon opportunities.”

Matt Mace

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