Report: UK’s leadership role in green economy hinges on ‘ambitious’ Clean Growth Plan

The UK's leadership role in the green economy is "far from guaranteed" due to delays in the Government's Clean Growth Plan, with a new report revealing that ambitious new policies in areas such as electric vehicles (EVs) could halve the oil imports in the UK.

New analysis by Green Alliance, backed by a host of green groups, has urged the government to close current policy gaps and chart a trajectory for new policies that capture the economic and environmental benefits of EVs, renewables and green buildings.

Published before the launch of the Government’s Clean Growth Plan, which is set to be revealed in September, the report warns that further publishing delays will shackle business investment in the low-carbon sector.

“The UK’s position of leadership on the green economy is far from guaranteed,” one of the green groups supporting the report, Christian Aid’s head of advocacy Laura Taylor said. “The US administration is squandering its opportunity by stepping back from global agreements on climate change, while many other countries are seizing the initiative.

“The UK government’s long-overdue Clean Growth Plan needs to prove that this government is serious about speeding up the low carbon transition, not slackening the pace. The benefits to citizens are enormous but areas like home energy efficiency and heating are lagging behind and need urgent political attention.”

The Why the UK needs an ambitious clean growth plan now report, which is supported by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, welcomed the UK’s track record on phasing out coal-fired power plants, approving the fifth carbon budget and ratifying the Paris Agreement.

However, more recent announcements such as the ban on sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 is a case of “too little, too late”, with the report instead calling for a stronger target. Specifically, the report claims that an ambition for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2030 would reduce oil imports by 51% in 2035 compared to current projections.

In 2016, transport accounted for 40% of energy consumption, three quarters of which derived from road travel. The Green Alliance report noted that EVs accounted for 1.4% of new vehicle sales last year, well behind the 29% issued by Norway. In fact, the Nordic nation has nearly ten times more charging points per head of the population than the UK.

Commenting on the report, WWF’s head of climate and energy Gareth Redmond-King said: “The UK government’s commitment to end petrol and diesel vehicles sales in 2040 is too little, too late. We can and must go faster.

“To ensure the UK doesn’t miss out on the jobs and investment opportunity in clean, modern vehicles, the UK should up its ambition. Cleaning up transport and boosting home energy efficiency must be priorities for the UK government in the forthcoming Clean Growth Plan. Both measures will create jobs for UK businesses and reduce costs to the NHS caused by noxious air pollution and cold leaky homes.”

The report notes that the EV charging point market could be worth £18bn by 2030, yet the UK is constantly criticised for its lack of charging infrastructure.

Clean growth wishlist

The Clean Growth Plan has been in a holding pattern of new policy frameworks since Prime Minister Theresa May’s decided to seek a snap general election.

The report highlights some alarming green economy trends that need to be addressed by the long-awaited Clean Growth Plan. Analysis notes that investment into renewables in the UK will peak at £6.2bn next year. The report warns that without clear policy guidance, this could fall by 95% to less than £0.3bn by 2021.

In order to funnel investment into alternative technologies and energy, the Government should allocate £1.7bn between 2020 and 2025 into low-carbon auctions, the report suggests. The reintroduction of a zero-carbon homes standard by 2020 should also be prioritised.

According to the report, an 89% decline in the amount of energy saved from efficiency schemes between 2012 and 2013 still hasn’t been addressed. The UK is already struggling with renewable heat targets, and the sector is lagging behind.

The continued delay of the plan was described by Labour’s Shadow Energy & Climate Change Minister Alan Whitehead as a matter of “considerable shame” for the Government, in an exclusive interview with edie.

Matt Mace

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