New prime minister must ‘raise UK’s ambition on climate’

A leading think tank has called on the UK’s next prime minister to ‘raise the UK’s ambition on climate’ by fully setting out how the country will meet its new net zero carbon emissions target.

In a new report, Policy Exchange has set out several policy ideas for whoever succeeds Theresa May in Downing Street, including a number of recommendations around energy and environment.

The think tank particularly urged the UK’s new leader to embrace a net zero carbon emissions target of 2050, which the government announced it would set just yesterday.

However, the think tank said that simply setting the 2050 target will not be sufficient, saying the government should further investigate how the target can be met.

The report read: ‘Beyond setting the net zero target itself, there is a need for more detailed investigation of how it can be delivered.

‘Over the next 1-2 years the Government and its advisors (such as the CCC, Ofgem and Energy Systems Catapult) should undertake far more detailed analyses to understand the costs and practicalities of getting to net zero, and the policies required to drive this transition whilst minimising the cost to consumers and taxpayers.’

In its report, Policy Exchange also suggested a range of other policies which it said would help the UK enhance its environment and tackle climate change.

One of these is the reduction of the cost of electric vehicles, as well as investment in its associated infrastructure in order to encourage their mass adoption.

The think tank also suggested the introduction of a new carbon tariff, with the proceeds distributed progressively to protect lower-income consumers.

Crucially, it also said that the government should continue its support of nuclear energy, which it said will be as important as renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCAS) if the UK is to meet its net zero emissions target.

Dr Matt Rooney, Former Research Fellow in the Energy and Environment Unit at Policy Exchange, stressed that retaining the UK’s nuclear power will be necessary to help the move away from coal and gas and to produce the low carbon electricity capacity needed to charge more electric vehicles.

‘There is no other low carbon energy which can match nuclear power for scale and reliability, as well as the potential to use it for other services like district heating and hydrogen production,’ Dr Rooney wrote.

‘The development of nuclear, including small modular reactors, should continue to be a key pillar of government energy policy.’

Policy Exchange concluded that the government should launch a new commissioning body, a ‘Natural Capital Commission’, to oversee natural capital improvement strategies for each river basin, similar to local authorities’ Local Plans.

The commission could then be held to account by the UK’s new Office for Environmental Protection, the body suggested in the government’s forthcoming Environment Bill, it said.

The government’s full Environment Bill – which will include air quality, nature conservation and waste management – is set to be introduced later this year.

Image credit: K. Katzenfreund from Pixabay 

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden

Digital News Reporter

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