What will the government’s Clean Growth Strategy provide?
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy is a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the nation by building a lower-carbon future for the UK.
The 165-page document, produced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), can be downloaded here. However, don’t worry if you don’t have time to delve through it all because gas mains specialist, Flogas, has condensed it into an easy-to-read summary of what it means for UK homes and businesses.
What is the UK’s commitment to climate change?
To understand fully, it’s essential that you know the background legislation that brought the Clean Growth Strategy to fruition.
In 2008, the UK introduced the Climate Change Act, and through this became the first nation in the world to self-impose a legally binding carbon reduction target. The crux of it? To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).
How close are we to meeting the target?
It’s encouraging to see that the UK is well on its way to meeting its target, according to figures released by BEIS in March 2017 — since 1990, overall carbon emissions have dropped by 42%. While this progress is encouraging, the government acknowledges that there is still plenty more work to be done – and that’s where proposals like the Clean Growth Strategy come in.
How can the Clean Growth Strategy help?
The Clean Growth Strategy was set up to accelerate the pace of ‘clean growth’ by decreasing emissions as well as increasing economic growth. With that in mind, the two guiding objectives underpinning the strategy are:
- To meet our domestic commitments at the lowest possible net cost to UK taxpayers, consumers and businesses.
- To maximise the social and economic benefits for the UK from this transition.
For this vision to become a reality, the government has committed to rolling out lower-carbon processes, systems and technologies nationwide – doing so in the most cost-effective way possible for businesses and homes alike.
What are the Clean Growth Strategy’s key proposals?
The strategy focuses on six key areas which are wholly responsible for the UK’s carbon emissions. They aim to:
- Improve business and industry efficiency (25% of UK emissions)
- Improve our homes (13% of UK emissions)
- Accelerate the shift to low-carbon transport (24% of UK emissions)
- Deliver clean, smart, flexible power (21% of UK emissions)
- Enhance the benefits and value of our natural resources (15% of UK emissions)
- Lead the public sector (2% of UK emissions)
You can find the full list of 50 pledges in this executive summary.
What does this mean for homes and businesses?
Essentially, homes, businesses and industrial operations will be supported and encouraged by the government to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways. A major focus will be reassessing the fuels we use for jobs like heating, cooking, and powering industrial and manufacturing processes – and embracing cleaner, greener alternatives.
This will boost the uptake of renewable technologies such as heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar panels in the long term, and favour cleaner conventional fuels over more polluting ones. For example, for off-grid homes and businesses, the strategy sets out specific plans to phase out high-carbon forms of fossil fuels like oil. As the lowest-carbon conventional off-grid fuel, oil to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) conversions will play a key part in replacing oil in rural parts of the country.
Natural gas will of course remain a popular choice for buildings that are connected to the mains network – not only because of its accessibility and affordability, but also because it is the lowest-carbon fossil fuel on the market. Flogas, which specialises in highly competitive commercial mains gas, expects to see this part of its business continue to go from strength to strength.
The company has been an energy sector expert for more than 30 years and predicts that the ‘green gas’ phenomenon which sees natural gas injected with a proportion of environmentally friendly biogas will grow in demand thanks to the Clean Growth Strategy rolls.
Reaction to the Clean Growth Strategy
Key industry figures have been keen to show their support following the Clean Growth Strategy’s unveiling.
Lee Gannon, Managing Director of Flogas, said: “Through the publication of its Clean Growth Strategy, the government has made clear its intention to reduce carbon emissions from off-grid UK homes and businesses. Natural gas is affordable, versatile, widely available and – most importantly – emits significantly less carbon than the likes of coal and oil. As such, it will continue to play a central role as the UK works towards cleaning up its energy landscape. We look forward to working alongside policymakers and wider industry stakeholders to make the Clean Growth Strategy the success that it deserves to be.”
Trade body Oil & Gas UK also supports the strategy. Mike Tholen, its Upstream Policy Director, commented: “Oil & Gas UK welcomes the government’s commitment to technology in the strategy, especially with regards to carbon abatement measures such as carbon capture, usage and storage. Oil & Gas UK looks forward to working with the government to see how these technologies can further reduce emissions across the economy.”
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.