As part of the Government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national scale, it has launched the Clean Growth Strategy. This outlines proposals for building a lower-carbon future for Britain.
Compiled by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the comprehensive document can be downloaded and read in full from here. If you haven’t got time to trawl through hundreds of pages let us, with the help of business gas specialist Flogas Britain, summarise the key points.
This strategy presents the Government’s proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy through the 2020s. It explains how the whole country can benefit from low carbon opportunities, while meeting national and international commitments to tackle climate change.
What is the UK’s climate change commitment?
First things first, it’s important to understand the background legislation that brought the Clean Growth Strategy about.
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).
Any views on the government’s Clean Growth Strategy need to consider the context in which it has been produced. This includes legally binding targets on the UK under the Climate Change Act 2008 requiring a reduction of UK greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
We must also consider the government’s equivocal approach to aspects of clean energy policy. and the damaging impact of withdrawing financial incentives and planning barriers in the way of some renewable energy technologies in recent years. This is showcased by the UK’s drop in the EY Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index to 10th.
The Clean Growth Plan, which includes a range of measures to curb emissions such as pledging to bring as many homes as possible to B and C efficiency standards by 2030, was conceived as a way to put the UK back on track to meet its binding carbon budgets, which the country was on course to miss from the mid-2020s onwards.
How close are we to meeting the target?
BEIS figures published in March 2017 revealed that the UK is well on its way to meeting this target, with overall carbon emissions having dropped by 42 per cent since 1990. 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?
In a nutshell, the policies and proposals set out in the Clean Growth Strategy aim to accelerate the pace of ‘clean growth’ in two ways: by decreasing emissions, and by 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.
To turn this vision into a reality, the government has pledged to roll 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’s proposals focus on these six key areas, which together are responsible for 100% of the UK’s carbon emissions:
- Improving business and industry efficiency (25% of UK emissions)
- Improving our homes (13% of UK emissions)
- Accelerating the shift to low-carbon transport (24% of UK emissions)
- Delivering clean, smart, flexible power (21% of UK emissions)
- Enhancing the benefits and value of our natural resources (15% of UK emissions)
- Leading 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, this means that homes, businesses and industrial operations will be encouraged and supported by the government to minimise 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 not only means boosting uptake of renewable technologies (e.g. heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar panels) in the long term, but also favouring 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 remain a popular choice for buildings that are connected to the mains network – not only because of its affordability and accessibility, but also because it is the lowest-carbon fossil fuel available. 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, which has been an expert in the energy sector for more than 30 years’, also predicts that the ‘green gas’ phenomenon (natural gas injected with a proportion of environmentally friendly biogas) will grow in popularity as the Clean Growth Strategy rolls out.
Reaction to the Clean Growth Strategy
There has been plenty of support from key industry figures following the unveiling of the Clean Growth Strategy.
Independent UK law firm Burges Slamon said: “The upbeat tone in the Strategy represents a welcome departure from the government’s previous equivocal approach referred to above. The Strategy recognises that tackling climate change through clean policies is directly linked to a prosperous economy.
“In the forward, Theresa May states that clean growth is at the centre of the UK’s Industrial Strategy and a key area for her government. In a similar vein Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy proclaims that “the move to cleaner economic growth is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time”.
“This recognition that the clean energy sector leads to jobs, growth and prosperity is something that industry and government should have been emphasising to the public for many years.
“What is interesting is the Strategy’s acceptance that investing in new technologies today can pay future dividends. The government expressly acknowledges that the progress to date in growing the UK’s economy while simultaneously reducing emissions has “altered the way that we see many of the trade-offs between investing in low carbon technologies that help secure our future but that might incur costs today.”
“All the more puzzling therefore, that the Strategy is non-committal on how many new clean energy technologies on the cusp of major deployment and industrialisation will be supported to capitalise on the achievements made so far. Warm words are fine, but if ever there was a time to grasp the opportunity, it is now.”
Speaking at a press briefing before the report’s launch, Lord Deben acknowledged that the Clean Growth Strategy marked a “fundamental difference” from previous circumstances where climate issues have been brought to the forefront of wider economic and growth-focused policy. “But that doesn’t mean to say there isn’t a very great deal more to do,” he warned.
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.
Says the Green Alliance Blog: “Overall, the [Committee on Climate Change’s] (CCC) review of the Clean Growth Strategy at once lauds the government’s strong commitment to achieving its climate targets while firmly reminding it of the need for new policies and effective delivery. In the current political turbulence, with Brexit shrinking the space for domestic policy creation, the CCC has called on the government to pursue its aims with “vigour, urgency and sustained commitment to ensure further delays do not make the carbon budgets unattainable”.
RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said: “We welcome the Government’s recognition that building energy efficiency is a key component in driving clean growth. However we are concerned that important detailed decisions are being kicked into the long grass yet again with more consultation exercises, the Clean Growth Strategy having been already delayed by two and a half years.
“If it is to ensure that social and economic benefits for the UK are maximised, the Government cannot just focus on technological change. Market failures are preventing our sector from deploying energy efficiency upgrades to the built environment and must be urgently addressed.
“As the UK grapples with a productivity crisis we know that investing in energy efficiency can help address the balance.
“Zero carbon home standards with better consumer oriented labelling, proper tax breaks and incentives for consumers and suppliers of building materials, equipment and financial products are necessary. Allied to a significant programme for domestic energy efficiency upgrades such measures would provide the step change needed.
“The RIBA and the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group recently set out how the UK could accelerate cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. We encourage the Government to adopt these measures.”
“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.”