The UK government recently unveiled a new climate strategy that has come under fire from critics for failing to do enough to combat climate change.
The government’s strategy, released at the end of March, was primarily business-focused. It was intended to “drive multi-billion pound investment in energy revolution.” In their announcement of the plans Prime Minister Risi Sunak and Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps also made prominent references to energy security in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The new strategy was part of a legal requirement after courts found the previous strategy illegal last year for failing to do enough to meet the UK’s targets on cutting carbon emissions.
It was also seen as a response to multi-billion dollar investments by the EU and the US in green technologies, which caused fears the UK would fall behind on green industry.
Thousands of pages of documentation were released, with the centrepiece “Powering up Britain”’ document laying out the government’s plan, which called for “delivering energy security and net zero.”
Today we’re announcing an Energy Security Plan which will help drive down household bills and secure the UK’s energy supply through home-grown power:
➡️ Bringing down energy bills for the long term
➡️ Driving investment across the UK
➡️ Creating jobs of the future
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 30, 2023
According to the document this would be done through scaling up nuclear power, investing in carbon capture technology, increasing energy efficiency in homes, increased use of renewable energy, and decarbonising transport.
The plans included a mix of new policies and restating what had already been announced previously.
Previously announced plans included a £20bn commitment to invest in carbon capture technology — the controversial technology to capture climate-heating carbon dioxide from the air and store or use it elsewhere. This had already been announced in the spring budget.
Plans for reviving the UK nuclear industry date back to 2015.
Funding worth £240 million for green hydrogen projects was announced last year, while plans to insulate 300,000 homes expand on a pledge from last year; the funding for this will come out of an existing £1 billion fund.
There were also new policies. Amongst them a £350 million investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure was announced. There was also a new consultation document that sets out minimum sales targets for EV at 22% in 2024, 80% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. An extra £185m funding for cutting energy use in industry was also announced.
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In their announcements, representatives of Great British Nuclear, Rolls Royce, Associate of British Insurers and Solar Energy UK all spoke positively of the new climate strategy.
However, many were critical of the plans. The WWF’s executive director of advocacy & campaigns Kate Norgrove told Sky News that the announcements are “a half-baked rehash of existing commitments that fail to meet the strong public call for environmental action.”
The Guardian reported the plans as “half-baked, half-hearted” that fail to do enough to combat climate change in an article filled with critiques from environmental groups and scientists.
FACT: Rishi Sunak took flights worth £500,000 in just 10 DAYS last year – all at the expense of the TAXPAYER.
This government isn't serious about tackling climate change.
— Greenpeace UK (@GreenpeaceUK) April 4, 2023
While the “Powering Up Britain” document called for “decarbonising road and air travel” the government has cut air taxes and blocked a climate levy after lobbying from airlines. The cut on air taxes came into effect at the start of April, a day after the government’s new climate strategy was announced. It is expected to lead to an increase in the number of flights.
The targets for EV sales also broadly match projected sales anyway, leading to critics of the plan to call for more ambitious targets.
The government also did not change a de-facto ban on onshore wind. It also continues to licence new oil and gas fields in the north sea — completely at odds with combating climate change.
A series of changes to the government’s new climate strategy in the run-up to the announcement, including the refocus on energy security instead of net zero, has led to suggestions of a warring Tory party.
Writing in The Conversation, Steven R. Smith — a visiting research fellow at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey — argued that a serious climate strategy is untenable in the UK. This is because the current style of strategy is politically viable. Whereas a more ecologically viable strategy does not have enough political support.
Whether the lacklustre climate strategy was caused by Tory infighting, a lack of political will or another reason, the risks of failing to do enough on climate change are overwhelming. As summarised by Mel Evans, the head of climate for Greenpeace UK, in an interview with The Guardian:
“Ministers talk about leading the world, but the UK is not even making it to the starting blocks of the green tech race… powering Up Britain is a far cry from what this country needs.”
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: 30/03/2023. Abingdon, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, accompanied by the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps, visits Culham Science Centre and was taken around by the CEO of UK Atomic Energy Authority Prof Sir Ian Chapman and the Chair of UKAEA Prof David Gann, and met staff and apprentices at work in the Culham Science Centre. Featured Photo Credit: Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street