Intelligence: 21 October 2021Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener

On 19 October 2021 the Government published its highly anticipated Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener (referred to as the ‘Strategy’). Its main purpose is to build on plans for a ‘green industrial revolution’ and to provide the starting point for the plans and proposals required to deliver ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. Here Will Spencer and Thomas Edmunds provide a high-level summary of the key proposals in the Strategy which are likely to have a significant influence on our work in the coming years.

In his Boris Johnson’s Foreword (Kwasi Kwateng has a separate one) its says:

"In 2050, we will still be driving cars, flying planes and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric gliding silently around our cities, our planes will be zero emission allowing us to fly guilt-free, and our homes will be heated by cheap reliable power drawn from the winds of the North Sea. And everywhere you look, in every part of our United Kingdom, there will be jobs. Good jobs, green jobs, well-paid jobs, levelling up our country while squashing down our carbon emissions.”

The early parts of the Strategy focus on “Why Net Zero” and the “Journey to Net Zero”. Many of us are used to hearing about the former (re the need to avoid catastrophic climate change caused by Global Warming) however there is also reference to the “levelling-up” agenda and maximising opportunities following Brexit. The latter explains the key features of the Net Zero transition, with an emphasis on a “systems approach” to help address complex policy challenges and interdependencies. There is also a useful graphic (see below) to show the role of each sector of the economy in a net zero system and a review of some pathways on how net zero could be delivered by 2050 (in terms of variables in energy sectors and technologies) - available on page 63 of the document.

 

 

 

The actual proposals in the Strategy are numerous and it would not be possible to summarise them all here. The following are some of the key ones to pick out:

  • A decarbonised power system by 2035, where all electricity will come from low carbon sources.
  • Investment in nuclear (including one large project and progressing a design for ‘Small’ and ‘Advanced’ Modular Reactor design), offshore wind (including floating wind technology), solar, bioenergy and electricity storage. Other proposals relate to reducing emissions from oil and gas and making use of the UK Investment Bank to ‘crowd-in’ private finance (as well as other funding mechanisms).
  • Delivery of ‘critical system enablers’ to integrate low carbon technologies and optimise the electricity system (e.g. through coordination of grid connections to offshore wind projects, smart technology such as storage and smart EV charging, flexible heating/smart meters, interconnectors and changes to system governance).
  • Funding to support new hydrogen and industrial carbon capture business models + greenhouse gas removal technologies.
  • Sector and supply chain “green skills” development plans for key low carbon sectors
  • For all new heating appliances in homes and workplaces to be low carbon by 2035, through various funding streams and the launch of a village trial for the role of hydrogen in the heating system.
  • Incentives and funding to support increased use of zero emissions vehicles (including freight), bus networks and cycling infrastructure, as well as rail electrification and rapid transit system developments. There are also ambitions for the UK to be a leader in zero-emission flight and for there to be at least one zero emission transport city.
  • A trebling of woodland creation rates and restoring 280,000 Ha of peatland
  • Embedding Net Zero in Government, for example through the five environmental principles in the Environment Bill and for Government decisions on spending to be informed by their impact on meeting Net Zero. There will also soon be decisions (following a recent consultation) on how regulators can be encouraged to consider themes such as competition, innovation and net zero in their decisions (“more agile, smarter regulation”).
  • Empowering the public and business to make green choices (e.g. through clear regulatory signals and making green choices easier, more informed, more affordable and building acceptability.
  • Improvements to the planning system so it can support the deployment of low carbon energy infrastructure whilst also representing the interests of the environment and communities affected. This includes the ongoing review of the Energy National Policy Statements and programmes to help speed up the consenting of nationally significant infrastructure help solve barriers to the expansion of offshore wind. A review of the NPPF will also make sure it contributes to climate change mitigation/adaptation.

These are the proposals that stand out following an initial review of the Strategy. If you spot others or would like to discuss any then please get in touch with one of us in the Infrastructure and Energy team. You can otherwise expect that a focus on compatibility with achieving net-zero will be a theme right across Government and business (and the planning system!) in the coming years. It certainly won’t be easy though, so I look forward to how the proposals in the Strategy translate into reality.

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Net Zero, Build Back Greener, Energy, Infrastructure, Sustainability, Green