Boris Johnson has announced plans for the government’s self-styled green industrial revolution.
The Prime Minister outlined a £12billion “Ten Point Plan” to tackle climate change, slash carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 and create or protecting 250,000 posts.
But while it may not be all it seems – Downing Street was forced to admit just £3bn of the cash was “brand new investment” – it does include quite a lot of big changes.
(Even if a lot of them were unveiled before – but we’re trying to stay positive.)
The plans unveiled on Wednesday include planting 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025, banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and boosting cycling.
But what are the ten pledges in the environmental plan and what does it really mean for you?
Boris Johnson’s ten environmental pledges in full – and what it could mean for you.
1. Offshore wind
The Government has already announced an ambition to have every home in the UK powered by offshore wind, to cut the emissions from electricity.
Offshore wind looks like an increasingly sound bet: costs have fallen dramatically and new technology such as floating turbines could make even more of the natural conditions in the seas around the UK.
It could mean electricity bills go up in the short term if the level of investment required to meet the target isn’t met by government funds.
2. Hydrogen power
There are plans to have five gigawatts of “low carbon” hydrogen production capacity by 2030, and develop the first town heated by the gas by the end of the decade.
Hydrogen could be a clean alternative to fossil fuels for industry, electricity generation, for boilers to heat homes instead of gas, and to replace diesel in vehicles such as buses and HGVs.
It can be made from water using electricity, which could harness clean power from renewables when demand from the grid is low, though it is currently cheaper to make from natural gas, which produces carbon emissions that would have to be captured and stored to make it “low carbon”.
There’s renewed support for nuclear power in the plan, though it has remained stubbornly expensive, while renewable costs have fallen.
Supporters of the technology, which provides a little under a fifth of Britain’s power from a fleet of reactors retiring in the coming years, say it generates reliable zero-carbon electricity while renewables are intermittent.
Advocates of small modular reactors say they can be largely built in factories and take up smaller sites, reducing capital costs, while the Government may be hoping the more traditional Sizewell C plant can be delivered with a new funding mechanism that makes it cheaper to construct.
4. Ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans brought forward to 2030
Sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be phased out by 2030,under the plans.
Though the sale of some hybrid vehicles will be allowed until 2035.
You will still be allowed to drive petrol and diesel on Britain’s roads, and you will still be able to buy a secondhand ICE car.
The biggest share of the UK’s domestic emissions now comes from transport, primarily road traffic which also creates local air pollution that harms people’s health.
Bringing forward the ban on conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans sends a strong signal that it’s time to shift to electric vehicles.
But the Government is also having to invest in grants to help buy cars and chargepoint infrastructure, highlighting the two main concerns over electric vehicles: cost and range anxiety – how far you can drive without running out of juice.
For people who have an old internal combustion engine car after 2030, it might soon get quite expensive though.
Taxes such as vehicle excise duty are likely to rise to deter diesels and petrol cars.
Also several big cities are set to follow London in introducing ultra low emission zones – charging drivers of polluting cars to drive around their city centres.
5 Public transport, cycling and walking
It is also widely recognised the UK cannot just switch out all its cars for greener models, as there are issues including non-tailpipe emissions and the resources needed for batteries.
Clean public transport options include hydrogen buses, while the Government has given funding to boosting walking and cycling – which also benefits health – though there is a fierce fight on over road and pavement space.
6. Jet zero and greener maritime
Planes and ships rely on fossil fuels without a clear alternative.
Mr Johnson has already announced support to develop the first zero-emission long-haul passenger flight, electric planes are in development and electric ferries already on the water, but solving the pollution from long-haul flights and long-distance tankers remains a big ask.
7. Heating homes
Homes account for almost a fifth of carbon dioxide emissions, mostly from heating, with millions of draughty homes leaking heat generated by gas or even oil boilers.
The plan has more money for energy efficiency and targets to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, but the Government has long been warned by its climate advisers it is off track on these fronts, so it is very much playing catch-up.
And while you’ll be allowed to keep your gas boiler you’ll be incentivised to install a heat pump when your boiler is past its best.
Most of the change will be in new-build homes though as the government has brought forward to 2023 its rules banning gas boilers in new homes, originally planned for 2025.
The plan also includes £1bn next year for funds to insulate homes and public buildings, using the existing green homes grant and public sector decarbonisation scheme.
So you may want to look around and see if you are eligible for any of that support
8. Carbon capture
Ministers have talked for a long time about technology to capture emissions from power stations or industry and pipe it to storage deep underground, for example old oil and gas fields under the North Sea.
It is yet to get going at scale, but the focus has turned to “clusters” where groups of power stations, factories or industrial plants could be linked up to the infrastructure to store carbon to save on costs.
As well as a climate crisis, the world is facing a wildlife crisis, with loss of habitats and wild species causing harm to important services such as pollination, flood prevention and healthy soils.
But the good news is both can be solved at the same time, with measures such as funding for planting trees or letting them regenerate naturally, or restoring peatland to store carbon, protect habitat and curb flooding.
The Government has promised an extra £40 million for the green recovery challenge fund, for charities restoring nature across the UK, and has a long-standing tree-planting pledge – but is behind on those efforts.
10. Innovation and finance
Experts will always warn there is no technology silver bullet, but there is a need to develop innovative solutions, from alternatives to jet fuel to schemes that can take excess carbon out of the air.
And finance plays a key role in delivering the wholesale, economy-wide shift away from fossil fuels to a clean future, so the focus has increasingly grown on how markets and investors face up to the climate threats.