Darren Walsh, legal advisor at DWF writes for Environment Journal about the Prime Minster’s long-awaited 10 Point Plan, explaining the barriers and challenges in achieving these environmental goals.
There has been much speculation about the Prime Minister’s ‘green revolution’ and now we have the awaited 10 Point Plan.
As a legal adviser, I have seen the challenges businesses face in getting low carbon initiatives off the ground. Whether it be in the context of new nuclear build in Cumbria and Wales or the deployment of significant capital in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure sector. The lack of clear Government policy has at times dissuaded final investment decisions.
So here’s what I make of the 10 Point Plan:
Offshore wind: This is a challenging aspiration. Whilst we have seen offshore wind technology advancements in the near-term with the contract for difference (CFD) strike price coming down to as little as £30 per megawatt-hour; reliance on one source of energy is not a sensible strategy for the security of supply.
Offshore wind is certainly an important element in our country’s overall energy mix, dependency on wind alone would not be in our national interest.
Hydrogen: Achieving this target in 10 years will be a challenge. I’m encouraged by this ambition and see it as a key part of the UK’s strategy for achieving net-zero carbon.
However, the green hydrogen sector in the UK and globally is a nascent industry. Current technology for gas reforming has significant Co2 challenges and the use of electrolysers remains beholden to the higher costs of electricity supply.
Nuclear: Many large-scale nuclear technology companies have lost faith in the Government. Moorside and Wylfa Newydd have both stalled with enormous up-front investment costs due to a lack of Government support for a subsidy-based scheme that addresses the long lead-time between construction and commercial operation of these plants.
Supporting a new large-scale nuclear power station in the UK is welcomed and it will be interesting to see how Government grapples with the challenge of awarding another CFD-type solution to this new build programme.
Electric vehicles: A key factor here will be consumer confidence in the wide-availability of charging infrastructure across the UK. Battery technology is advancing rapidly as well as the range of vehicles.
However, cost is a huge factor; electric cars are still a lot more expensive than combustion engine cars.
Public transport, cycling and walking: With the advancement of battery technology and, perhaps, more importantly, hydrogen fuel cell technology, a push will be needed to develop the tech and infrastructure.
Vehicles more associated with public transport will need a similar degree of support from the Government in order to develop national infrastructure. Tax treatment of hydrogen production and sale will also need to be carefully considered.
Jet zero and greener maritime: This will be linked to the advancement of battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Homes and public buildings: Government has pledged £1 billion in 2021 into making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient, extended the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme by a year, and a pledge to make public sector buildings greener, as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
Further support in this area is welcomed and will continue to encourage these initiatives.
Carbon capture: The UK has already sought and failed to generate a Carbon Capture and Storage sector several years ago seeing industry step-up to the challenge of developing the technology only to find Government support wane.
It is essential for the industry to be convinced that the Government is serious about this initiative and that they are prepared to back this sector in the medium and long-term.
Nature: Improving our public spaces and encouraging a more sustainable attitude to our public spaces is an essential part of addressing our climate emergency.
Focusing on clean air and delivering low carbon solutions to address fuel poverty in our cities and regions is already high up on local authority agendas as part of their climate emergency action plans.
Innovation and finance: The UK is already a significant force in the financing of low carbon and green technologies. UK Advisers are already seen as world-leading experts in the deployment of capital in support of low carbon initiatives.
Investment in our professionals of the future will be essential to remain at the forefront of green investment in the UK and globally.
Whether we accept that the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for Net-zero Carbon provides a £12 billion shot in the arm for our green revolution, what is clear from the announcement is that Government is striving to achieve its Paris Agreement commitments by 2050 or sooner.
The reality is that it will not achieve this without significant private sector investment and winning the hearts and minds of the UK population. The 10 Point Plan provides a framework for how this might be achieved, but there remains a significant amount of work to do to implement this plan.
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