Small print details reveal Boris Johnson’s green plan isn’t much of a ‘revolution’
Some of Boris Johnson’s green plan has left campaigners fuming (Image: Birmingham Mail)
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Boris Johnson's blueprint for a “green industrial revolution” was blasted by unions, campaigners and MPs today.
The Prime Minister outlined a £12billion “Ten Point Plan” to tackle climate change, slash carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 and trigger a jobs bonanza – creating or protecting 250,000 posts.
But Downing Street was forced to admit just £3bn of the cash was “brand new investment” – and critics said the 38-page document was comprised largely of reheated announcements.
Many of the pledges have been unveiled previously, including in last year's(2019) general election manifesto, at last month's Conservative Party conference and as the Government tried to provide some upbeat news over the spring while the country battled the coronavirus crisis.
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: "The funding in this long-awaited announcement doesn't remotely meet the scale of what is needed to tackle the unemployment emergency and climate emergency we are facing, and pales in comparison to the tens of billions committed by France and Germany.
"Only a fraction of the funding announced today is new.
“We don't need rebadged funding pots and reheated pledges, but an ambitious plan that meets the scale of the task we are facing and, crucially, creates jobs now.”
Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For all the Government's talk of a 'green industrial revolution', it is off to a slow start with this plan.
“Ministers must do more to build a fairer, greener economy with decent work at its heart and deliver a just transition for workers.
“The Prime Minister should step up his ambition on jobs.
“TUC research shows that fast-tracked spending on green infrastructure could create 1.24 million good jobs by 2022.
“A proper green jobs drive can stop mass unemployment, power our economic recovery and help tackle the climate crisis.
“No more excuses – it’s time the Prime Minister put his money where his mouth is.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: "When you put it the context of the scale of the climate and nature emergencies face, and indeed the scale of job emergencies we face, then it's nowhere near ambitious enough.
“It's not urgent enough, it's not bold enough – it completely fails to rise to the gravity of this moment."
Plans unveiled tonight include planting 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025, banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and boosting cycling.
The Prime Minister also renewed calls to develop carbon capture and storage technology, urged aviation experts to build a zero-emission long-haul passenger jet and demanded maritime chiefs make shipping greener.
He also re-announced a target for enough offshore wind turbines to power every British home by 2030.
RenewableUK's deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said: "The Prime Minister has set out an ambitious plan for a new green industrial revolution, with low-cost renewable energy at its heart.”
Here's a point by point breakdown of the plans – and why some of them are leaving
1. Sales of new petrol and diesel cars banned from 2030
Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030
Sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030 – the most eye-catching move in the plan.
The ban was due to come into force in 2040, then Boris Johnson announced in February it would be accelerated by five years – and now he has brought it forward again.
Electric vehicles are rising in popularity but they still cost an average £10,000 more than petrol equivalents.
Motorists have longstanding concerns over the range of electric vehicles – how far they can go before they need recharging. There are too few charging points.
The plan includes £1.3billion to boost the rollout of charging points in homes, streets and on motorways, and £582m in grants for zero or ultra-low emission vehicles to make them cheaper and encourage take-up.
Hybrid vehicles running on a mixture of electricity and petrol can be sold until 2035 as long as they can be driven a “significant” distance in zero-emission mode.
Boris Johnson's 'green industrial revolution' – and what it means for you
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2. Energy efficiency for homes and public buildings
The government wants 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028
Experts welcomed plans to make homes and public buildings more energy efficient – a move the plan claims will create 50,000 jobs by 2030.
Ministers hope householders will replace fossil-fuel boilers over the next 15 years.
The Government wants 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028.
It previously announced £1billion next year for making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient and extending the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme.
Assael Architecture director Rory O’Hagan said: “The Government has to ensure that homes are being powered by sustainable sources, but also that we are building energy efficient homes and retrofitting existing housing stock.
"By embracing offsite manufacturing and sustainable technologies such as solar panels, energy-storing batteries, ground-source heat pumps and specialist ventilation systems to ensure homes generate more clean energy than they use, we can significantly reduce the environmental impact of buildings, while creating thousands of green jobs in the process.”
3. Making London a centre for green finance – which was already announced
Rishi Sunak already announced it
(Image: Empics Entertainment)
London will become a centre for green finance under plans already announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Government wants to make it easier for firms to pump cash into green ventures.
“Unleashing innovation and developing new sources of finance are fundamental for further developing the green technologies for net zero,” says the plan.
“Delivering clean investment at the scale and pace required will mean taking bold steps. That is why we will issue the UK’s first Sovereign Green Bond in 2021, subject to market conditions.”
This element of the plan seeks to exploit London's global reputation for financial services and encourage investors to join the “green industrial revolution”.
It adds: “We will implement a green taxonomy that defines which economic activities tackle climate change and environmental degradation to help better guide investors.
"Combined, these measures will provide investors with clarity and a clear framework to deliver the low carbon finance needed for a net-zero economy by 2050.”
4. 'Jet zero' aviation
Jet zero tech is available, but only on a smaller scale
(Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)
With Airbus, Rolls-Royce and other leading aviation firms based in Britain, the country already has a rich industry.
The plan seeks to build on that with renewed talk of “jet zero” – building the first long-haul passenger plane with zero emissions.
The technology exists for such aircraft – but only a much-smaller scale. Flying to New York on a zero-emissions plane is a long way off.
Earlier this year Boris Johnson convened the Jet Zero Council to investigate developing the plan.
Now, he wants shipping to focus on net-zero vessels.
Maritime UK chairman Harry Theochari said: "The market for green maritime technology is truly global, and the first country to make real progress towards maritime decarbonisation will reap substantial returns. The new green technologies to move vessels must be matched by green infrastructure at ports, so those vessels can recharge and refuel as people and goods come and go.”
5. Vague promises on green transport
The government has committed to making cycling more attractive
The pledge on green transport is among the most vague in the plan.
It says the Government is committed to “making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future”.
Ministers have already earmarked £5billion for “alternative greener ways of travel including cycling, walking, and buses”.
A blueprint unveiled earlier this year outlined plans for thousands of miles of new cycle lanes to tempt commuters out of their cars and promote cycling as healthy exercise as well as a form of transport.
However, cycle lanes are hugely divisive, with frustrated motorists sitting in traffic jams staring enviously at empty lanes unused by cyclists.
Boris Johnson was a cycling fanatic before becoming Foreign Secretary in 2016 when security chiefs forced him to give up his bike.
Greenpeace called for “an extra £10billion per year in greener public transport, walking and cycling solutions” as “a bare minimum”.
6. Nuclear as a 'clean source' of energy
Campaigners hate nuclear energy
(Image: Getty Images)
Conservatives trumpet nuclear as a “clean source” but campaigners hate it because of the risks, clean-up costs and vast sums of cash needed.
The plan pledges £525million to “advance nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors”.
It says the move “could support 10,000 jobs”. But some of that money is to research and develop new advanced modular reactors – meaning they do not currently exist and the technology might not work.
The plan is silent on how the Government plans to back building Sizewell C in Suffolk.
The UK's ageing fleet of nuke power stations is being retired and while replacements have been suggested, few have been backed by private developers.
Hinkley Point C in Somerset is under construction but is nearly £3billion over budget. Power from the plant is expected to cost £92.50 per megawatt hour – expensive compared with other sources.
7. The already announced offshore wind farms
The offshore wind farm pledge is not new…and Boris Johnson previously rubbished it
Offshore wind farms will generate enough energy to power every home in the UK by 2030, according to the plan.
But Boris Johnson had already announced the measure in his Tory Party conference speech last month.
Awkwardly for the Prime Minister, in 2013 he rubbished the power source, claiming wind farms “couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding”.
Now, he wants to quadruple the amount of energy generated from 10 gigawatts to 40GW in a decade in a huge expansion he claims will “support” up to 60,000 jobs.
But the Ten Point Plan did not address two other, much cheaper sources of renewable energy: onshore wind farms, which are far more controversial, especially among rural Tory voters; or solar farms, which have been criticised for blighting the landscape.
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs said: “The Government must also encourage the development of onshore wind.”
8. Carbon capture and storage
The system traps emissions from power plants or factory chimneys before they enter the atmosphere and fuel global warming
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Tories have been talking about carbon capture and storage for more than a decade – and are at it again in the plan.
It promises: “To revitalise the birthplaces of the first industrial revolution, the UK will be at the global forefront of carbon capture, usage and storage technology, benefiting regions with industries that are particularly difficult to decarbonise.”
Eight months after winning the 2015 election, David Cameron abandoned a carbon capture and storage project promised in the manifesto, claiming it had always been "subject to affordability".
Now CCS is back on the agenda, with No10 saying Britain will become “a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030”.
The system traps emissions from power plants or factory chimneys before they enter the atmosphere and fuel global warming.
Trapped carbon dioxide can be pumped into underground storage sites.
9. The watered down tree planting scheme
Even the reduced target will prove very difficult to hit
(Image: Rowan Griffiths)
Taken literally, the plan's pledge on tree-planting is actually watered-down compared with what was promised less than a year ago.
Last December's election manifesto vowed to “reach an additional 75,000 acres of trees a year by the end of the next Parliament”.
This week's 10-point blueprint says the Government will focus on “protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs”.
Converted into hectares, 75,000 acres is 30,351 – meaning Boris Johnson is promising to plant 351 fewer hectares of trees than when he won the election 11 months ago.
Even the (very slightly) reduced target will prove very difficult to hit: just 13,000 hectares of trees were planted in the year to March – the month we were all told to stay indoors.
Four-fifths of those were planted in Scotland.
10. The 'Hydrogen neighbourhood'
The Government hopes to wean the UK off natural gas for boilers
(Image: Getty Images)
Slashing Britain’s harmful emissions means moving away from fossil fuels including the gas that heats our homes.
The Government hopes to wean the UK off natural gas for boilers and lays out plans for thousands of homes to be fuelled by hydrogen within a decade.
It aims to “generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade”.
Hydrogen can be created from electricity and, eventually, solar and biomass. But the plan earmarks just £240million for creating hydrogen production facilities.
That is almost half of the £500m pot allocated for trialling homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking.
The plan reveals the ambition of a “Hydrogen Neighbourhood in 2023, moving to a Hydrogen Village by 2025, with an aim for a Hydrogen Town – equivalent to tens of thousands of homes – before the end of the decade”.