Net-zero strategy to power the green industrial revolution
4 November 2021 | 10 minutes
In mid-October this year, the UK government unveiled its long-awaited net-zero strategy that will pave the way to achieving decarbonisation by 2050.
What were the plans and promised funding that will start the net-zero ball rolling for the UK?
Among pledges and plans for matters involving energy and power, heating and homes, travel and transport, and the natural environment, there was the claim that the transition to a net-zero society was also economic not just environmental.
The launch of the comprehensive strategy came with the announcement that it would power the UK’s green industrial revolution as well as generate potentially 440,000 jobs and attract £90 billion of private investment by 2030.
Decarbonising heat and buildings
Heating for workplaces and houses makes up almost one third of the UK’s carbon emissions, which makes this category a key feature of the strategy. It promises that all new policies included under heat and buildings will set the foundation for achieving – by 2035 – new low-carbon heating appliances in all households and workplaces, and no further sales of new gas boilers.
In terms of grants and funding, the strategy sets out two new initiatives: the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and the Heat Pump Ready programme. The first is a three-year, £450 million scheme created in order to offer households in England and Wales up to £5,000 to replace gas boilers with low-carbon heat pumps. In tandem is the Heat Pump Ready programme that will receive £60 million for heat pump technologies to achieve the government’s target of installing 600,000 pumps by 2028.
Also receiving funding running into billions is the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme and Home Upgrade Grants (£1.75 billion), and Public Sector Decarbonisation (£1.425 billion).
Powering the nation
The large numbers continue in relation to how and from where the UK gets its power as the system moves towards being fully decarbonised by 2035. It is the government’s intention that the UK will be powered by clean, green electricity; however, this objective comes with the caveat that it is subject to security of supply.
Key policies under power include reaching 40 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 and by the same year delivering 5 GW of hydrogen production capacity, which also includes halving the emissions from oil and gas. The strategy promises a rethink about how to increase efficiencies and incorporate low carbon generation and demand in relation to onshore and offshore electricity networks.
Nuclear power also comes under the spotlight with the assertion that the government will secure a final decision regarding investment for the large-scale Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk. Funding of £120 million has also been allocated for the development of small, modular nuclear reactors.
Transport and travel and the journey to net-zero
Electric vehicles (EV) and the infrastructure required, including charging points, feature prominently in the strategy. The pledge to end sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 will be underpinned by an investment of £620 million to hasten the transition to EVs, as will a new sales target that mandates car manufacturers to sell a certain amount of zero-emissions vehicles each year.
Further funding and initiatives that will contribute to the decarbonisation of transport include:
£3 billion to increase the frequency of bus services, bus lanes and to create integrated bus networks
£2 billion to contribute to the goal of half of journeys undertaken in town and cities to be feasible by cycling or walking
4,000 new zero-emission buses and associated infrastructure
Investment in the electrification of railways, with the ambition to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040.
A boost for nature
With promised tree-planting rates lagging behind existing targets, the strategy states that actions and funding will enable woodland in England to be trebled. This follows advice by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which recommends that 30,000 hectares will have to be planted every year from 2024 if the UK is to achieve net-zero by 2050. The restoration of peatland is also essential to this target and will receive a £124 million boost to support this project.
Support for farmers comes in the form of assistance with the implementation of low-carbon farming techniques and practices which have the objective of achieving sustainability while increasing productivity. New environmental land management schemes will also be introduced to help reach the target of 75% of farmers using low-carbon practices by 2030; this currently only applies to farmers in England.