What Was Achieved at the COP26 Climate Summit?

COP 26

To understand what was achieved at the COP26 climate summit it’s helpful to look at the goals that were brought to the table at the outset of the summit.

Two hundred countries were asked to come forward with their most ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets to align with reaching net zero by 2050 and to keep global warming to well below 2C and to aim for 1.5C.

It was understood that in order to deliver on these targets, countries would need to: accelerate the phase out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

Countries were also expected to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by extreme weather events linked to climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

Climate Finance

For these first two goals to work, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2025. International financial institutions need to play their part too. It was also considered important to look at ways to work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

Developing countries have been promised that climate finance will be increased in the next 5 years to $500bn. Developing countries would like more of the cash spent on adaptation rather than emissions cuts. This is important because most of the climate finance currently available goes to funding emissions-cutting projects, such as renewable energy schemes, in middle income countries that could often be funded easily without help, because they turn a profit. But the poorest countries who need money to adapt to the impact of extreme weather struggle to obtain any funding at all. It was agreed to double the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation which was an important first step.

450 financial institutions who between them control $130tn, agreed to back “clean” technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries. This initiative is an attempt to get private companies to work towards meeting net zero targets and to for them to commit to providing finance for green technology.

Some environmental organisations believe that this initiative amounts to little more than a PR exercise without a greater commitment to ending fossil fuel finance.

Reaffirming the Paris Agreement

Working together was regarded as the only way that we could rise to the challenges of the climate crisis.

It was considered imperative that those at COP26 work together to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society.

It was agreed that the current national plans on cutting emissions by 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are insufficient to limit temperature rises to 1.5C. According to analysis published during the talks if we continue as we are the current NDCs would lead to a disastrous 2.4C of global heating.

Unfortunately, only one major emitter, India, produced a new NDC at the talks which leaves much work to be done to get more of the major emitters on board.

However, it was agreed that the question of revising NDCs would be on the agenda for next year’s COP, to be held in Egypt, and for the one following in 2023. Up until now, under the 2015 Paris agreement, nations were only required to return every 5 years to set new NDCs. Countries have been asked to republish their climate action plans, with more ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030, by the end of next year.

Setting a roadmap for revisions next year, rather than several years away is one positive outcome from the talks.

Trees

Leaders from more than one hundred countries, representing about 85% of the world’s forests have promised to stop deforestation by 2030. Trees can absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the key greenhouse gases adding to global warming. Ending deforestation is seen as a vital way to tackle climate change. However, previous initiatives haven’t stopped deforestation though this one is better funded. It is also unclear how the pledges will be policed or monitored.

Coal

Coal is the biggest single contributor to climate change. Although progress has been made in reducing its use, it still produced about 37% of the world’s electricity in 2019. It is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and the International Energy Agency has said that if it is not rapidly phased out the world has no hope of staying within 1.5C of global heating. To hit the target, at least 40% of the world’s existing 8,500 coal-fired power plants must be closed by 2030 and no new ones built.

More than forty countries including major coal users such as Poland, Vietnam and Chile have agreed to shift away from coal. A milestone has been reached at this COP as for the first time the Glasgow Climate Pact has made a direct reference to phasing out fossil fuels. The phrasing of the commitment in the final text of the pact was hard fought. India insisted on changing the final phrase from “phase out” to “phase down” despite pleas from other developing countries. Some of the world’s most coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China, and the US, haven’t signed up. And the agreement doesn’t cover other fossil fuels such as oil or gas. However, the first step has been made towards ending coal’s grip on the energy industry.

Methane

More than one hundred countries have agreed to a scheme to cut 30% of current methane emissions by 2030. Methane, as one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is currently responsible for a third of human generated warming. Most methane is produced from cattle production and waste disposal. Though the big emitters, China, Russia, and India haven’t joined the scheme it is hoped that they will later.

One of the most surprising announcements made during COP26 came from the US and China. They made a joint declaration to “recall their firm commitment to work together” to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris agreement. As the world’s two biggest CO2 emitters, an agreement between the US and China is seen as critical in keeping the 1.5C temperature rise threshold within reach. Steps were agreed on methane emissions, the transition to clean energy and decarbonisation. Despite China being reluctant to tackle its domestic coal emissions in the short term, China does appear to recognise the need for urgent action. Organisations such as Greenpeace though welcoming the joint declaration warned that both countries needed to show greater commitment to reaching climate goals.

 By and large, any commitments made by countries at COP26 will have to be self-policed. Only a few countries are making their pledges legally binding. It is hoped however that as momentum builds towards net zero, it will encourage countries to keep up.

 The real value of meetings like COP26 is to try and encourage every country to stay involved. There would be little point in imposing sanctions on countries who don’t keep to their pledges as this could see them withdrawing from international agreements completely.

 Though COP26 has by no means solved the climate crisis, it has turned out much better than many people had expected. Broadly speaking the conference can be seen as a success as the ultimate aim of ‘keeping alive’ the Paris Agreement global warming goal of 1.5C has been achieved. This does of course rather depend on what happens in the next year or two and all the way up to 2030.

 Improving the short-term carbon cutting actions that are so important to hitting that target has become a lot easier with the Glasgow Climate Pact. Hopefully, those nations that are not doing their bit to hit 1.5C will come back with plans to increase cuts up to 2030 at next year’s COP, in Egypt.

Morrisons Plans to reach Net Zero 5 Years Ahead of Original Target

Morrisons

Supermarket giant Morrisons has become the latest major company to bring forward its commitment to be net zero. It has pledged to achieve net zero emissions across its own operations by 2035, five years ahead of its previous ambition and 15 years ahead of the UK government target.

The move followed a similar announcement by Sainsbury’s perhaps spurred on by Metro.co.uk who recently called on the UK’s major supermarkets to do more to help save the planet telling them that it was “time to shelve” damaging environmental practices. Like Sainsbury’s, the chain had previously stated that its target was to reach net zero by 2040. Undoubtedly these announcements will pile pressure on other supermarkets to act especially at a time when the world is already focused on the UK hosting the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

Morrisons has announced plans to work with more environmentally friendly farms in the UK, to use low carbon vehicles, reduce food waste and lower food miles.

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The company which was recently taken over in a £7bn deal has become the first supermarket to own and operate its own solar farm. The solar operation will stretch to 230,000 panels covering a near 125-acre site and generate energy to supply 20% of the power required by the stores involved. The panels will be installed on top of two thirds of Morrisons’s stores and sites by 2025 and are expected to produce over 100MW of electricity. The solar farm will be one of the biggest in the UK. It is also estimated that they will reduce their CO2 emissions by 21,000 tonnes per year which is equivalent to 42,000 return flights to Spain! The supermarket has confirmed that it has already installed over 5MW of solar power across 37 sites but that it now wants to accelerate the roll-out.

The supermarket is not only planning to cut its operational scope 1 and 2 emissions but has further committed to significantly reducing its value chain scope 3 emissions across its own brand supply chains by 30% over the next decade. Here’s an explanation of what’s involved with the different scopes:

  1. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.
  2. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the reporting company.
  3. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

Morrisons is already collaborating with its suppliers to cut its scope 3 emissions and is adopting several new initiatives in order to reduce its own emissions faster than previously anticipated.

These initiatives include switching to low carbon transport and offering EV charging; certifying its palm oil and soy are sourced without deforestation; being directly supplied by ‘net zero’ British farmers; reducing energy and using renewable energy; reducing food waste and food miles; ensuring zero deforestation in it supply chain and as already mentioned installing its own solar arrays on the roof of Morrisons stores to power the store appliances that require the most energy like fridges and freezers. Most of the power generated by the solar panels will be channelled straight into Morrisons stores and sites, rather than going into the National Grid.

The company has committed to reporting its progress every year and is working with the UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative to approve its new Scope 3 targets. 

The company is ahead of its forecast as far as reducing its operational emissions are concerned. It promised a 33% cut in carbon emissions by 2025 and the current reduction has already reached 32% which means that almost 300,000 tonnes of CO2 have been saved since 2017. It also plans to help its suppliers audit and reduce their CO2 emissions. Morrisons has a robust carbon reduction plan rather than relying heavily on offsetting which will please environmentalists.

David Potts, CEO at Morrisons, said:

“As a supermarket we depend on a healthy planet to produce the goods we sell to customers. We’ve committed to removing carbon emissions, rather than setting a carbon neutral target that would depend heavily on offsetting. We’re also investing resources to bring forward our net zero commitment by five years which is extremely ambitious but very necessary. Our new solar farm and net zero carbon agriculture programme are just two ways we’ll achieve our commitment.”

The chain has partnered with the National Farmers Union and McDonalds to launch a School of Sustainable Farming at Harpers

Adams University in Newport, Shropshire with the aim of training farmers in low-carbon farming techniques.

Morrisons compares well with most of its rivals and has won praise from Greenpeace for its work on plastics. M&S and Co-op have also pledged to get to net zero by 2040.

Hugh Jones, the managing director of the Carbon Trust which worked with Morrisons to measures its emissions said: 

“By aligning its goals with a 1.5°C future, Morrisons is ensuring it builds resilience firmly into its business model and will be positioned to thrive as the global economy moves to zero emissions.”

How the shift to a circular economy could benefit your business

Circular,Economy

Traditionally, businesses have relied upon a linear model sometimes described as the ‘take-make-waste’ economy. Companies prioritised decisions that focus on cheapness, ease, and convenience. But with public perception shifting to a preference for sustainable and environmentally friendly thinking – there has been a push towards a circular economy.

Functionally, you can think of the circular economy in terms of three words: reduce, reuse, and recycle. It revolves around making better use of materials and resources to ensure that there is as little waste in the system as possible. And many businesses might assume that the move to a circular economy is simply well intentioned, but too expensive or difficult to implement. In fact, there is good evidence to the contrary. 

Studies have suggested that a move towards a circular economy ‘could boost Europe’s resource productivity by 3 percent by 2030, generating cost savings of €600 billion a year and €1.8 trillion more in other economic benefits’. These kinds of cost savings are only one of many benefits of a shift to a circular economy for businesses. 

Here we take a look at some of the key benefits of the circular economy for businesses, and why your businesses should consider making changes to the way it operates. 

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A path to sustainability

Sustainability is often seen as a goal for businesses, but it is not always appreciated that this can actually be hugely beneficial for organisations, as well as being good for the environment. 

Joe Hemsley-Rudd is the Business Development Manager at Countrystyle Recycling, who have recently expanded their operation into Cambridgeshire. He explains the path to sustainability is more viable than ever before: “Businesses are looking for a green alternative to waste management. With landfill diversion, promoting biodiversity and working with local organisations to minimise the impact of waste on the roads and local environment, Cambridgeshire has a very green future”. 

There is good evidence to show that customers actually prefer to work with businesses that prioritise the environment and green alternatives. Some studies suggest that 4 of out 5 people prefer to work with companies that have a positive approach to environmental sustainability. 

Increasing profits

Interestingly, the circular economy can provide new opportunities for profit. Cutting costs associated with waste, reducing energy consumption, and potentially broadening the client base all offer possibilities to increase the profits of your business. 

This is something that can often be overlooked – but lowering costs and improving revenue streams are two of the key ways to improve profits. 

Moving towards digitisation

Taking things virtual is one of the most important aspects of a circular economy. The simple fact is that traditional, non-digital ways of working are typically far more resource heavy and intrusive, compared with digital. 

Let’s take a couple of examples: first, moving to be a paperless office means investing in technology, doing so not only minimises paper usage and waste but also reduces the amount of physical space needed to store large amounts of documents and data. Second, allowing employees to work remotely can often massively reduce the carbon footprint of a business

The important thing to state here is that digitisation – an important part of the circular economy – has a profoundly positive impact on areas like productivity and profitability. The encouragement on being a part of a circular economy turns out to be a huge advantage. 

Reduced material costs

The traditional economy model puts a great deal of emphasis on the use of raw materials. One of the major issues here is that businesses are very rarely in control of the costs associated with sourcing these raw materials – ultimately, then, profits are at the mercy of often volatile raw material prices. 

When you recycle a great deal of the materials you use, you are reducing your dependence on raw materials. This is just another example of where the circular economy model can end up saving your business a significant amount of money in the long term. 

Final thoughts

Many businesses think of a switch to a circular economy model and more sustainable practices as something that is beneficial for the environment. But it can actually have enormous tangible benefits to the company too. Don’t think of the move to this model as being an inconvenience – look to the advantages that it can have from both perspectives. 

Daniel Groves – Business Growth Consultant

Is The UK On Track to Reduce Net Zero Carbon Emissions By 2050?

net_zero_2050

The UK government has committed to an ambitious target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to help tackle climate change. Net zero is the point at which the country is taking as much of these greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere as it is putting in. As part of this end goal, the government recently made further pledges to cut emissions this decade by 68% compared to emissions in 1990 and by 78% by 2035.


However, despite the government’s target for all the UK’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035, it is currently falling short of what will be required to achieve this. More funding and policy interventions will be needed to reach the net zero goal by 2050. Back in June, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), a group of experts that advise the government said that the UK only had credible policies in place to deliver about a fifth of the cut in emissions necessary for the net-zero goal.

The UK government are currently hosting COP26 in Glasgow where the signatories of the Paris Agreement are setting out their targets for reducing national and global emissions of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. It’s questionable whether the UK can claim the mantle of climate leadership based on current policy commitments. The emissions projections produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, show that greenhouse gas emissions are only expected to fall by 52% relative to 1990, by 2030.

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Successive governments have had relative success in reducing emissions from energy. They fell by 40% between 1990 and 2019 largely due to the closing of coal-fired power stations and more money being spent on solar, wind and nuclear energy.

Wind Power

The UK is leading the world in offshore wind. Presently it has capacity of about 10GW which the government has promised to quadruple by 2030. This increase would generate enough energy to power every home in the UK. Although this is achievable energy companies are concerned that the price, they are paid for wind energy is dropping rapidly which could squeeze their revenues and limit further investment. Another consideration is the need for there to be far more energy storage for the times when the wind does not blow.

Heat Pumps

British homes account for about 14% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions mostly due to gas boiler heating systems and poor insulation according to the CCC.

The UK government has committed to installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. Heat pumps transfer heat from the ground, air or water around a property into its heating system and cost upwards of £8,000.

In terms of numbers, about 35,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK in 2019 compared to about 1.7 million gas boilers being sold each year. There are 23.5 million gas boilers in the UK. The government has banned gas boilers from new builds from 2025. In its latest strategy the government has allotted £450m for the installation of heat pumps over 3 years. Grants of £5,000 will be available for homeowners which would be enough for 90,000 grants and that’s if you ignore any administrative costs. The CCC think the overall number installed each year should be higher than the 600,000 a year target and environmental experts are questioning how the government will meet this target anyway. The scheme is part of a wider package, worth £3.9 billion to decarbonise heat and public buildings.

Insulation

Further to this the CCC has said that insulation rates vital to the decarbonisation of energy in homes are only about a third of what they need to be. The government scrapped the Green Homes Grant scheme earlier this year, which was put in place to help people with the cost of insulating their homes. The latest net zero strategy only mentions insulation once with support promised for low-income households.

Transport


Cars and taxis accounted for 16% of UK emissions in 2019 and in a bid to reduce this the government has said that no new petrol and diesel cars will be sold from 2030. After 2040 you will only be able to purchase zero emissions vehicles. Though the number of electric cars being sold is growing quickly only 10% of cars sold in 2020 were electric. This is up on 2.5% in 2018.  The government has not brought in a scrappage scheme to help incentivise people to buy electric cars though there is a £2,500 grant available for fully electric cars that cost less than £35,000. There are 25,000 charging points in the UK, but the Competition and Markets Authority believes that 10 times that number could be needed by 2030. Huge growth in publicly accessible charging points is crucial for the move to electric cars.

To get people out of their cars the government has spent £338m on walking and cycling infrastructure in England with a view to building a “world class” cycling network by 2040.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, flying made up about 7% of overall emissions and shipping about 3%. There is very little known about how the government plans to reduce them and there are no targets for these sectors yet.  The CCC would like to see a freeze on demand for flights and a strategy to cut emissions from freight transport, aviation and shipping. The government has placed no restrictions on people flying and has claimed that there is technology yet to be developed that will allow domestic flights to be almost emissions free by 2040, and international aviation to be near zero-carbon by mid-century.

Agriculture


The CCC has said that emissions from agriculture need to be reduced by 30% by 2035. In order to achieve this people would need to eat 20% less meat and dairy on average, more land would need to be used for trees and restored peatland and shifted from agricultural use and there would need to be less food waste. The government has yet to publish its food strategy.

Trees

The role trees play in removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere is very important. The government does have an ambitious plan to plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025. Though the government wants to treble planting, in England during this parliament it has a long way to go to meet this target.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a low-carbon fuel that could be used for transport, heating, power generation or energy storage and the government would like to have a capacity of 5GW of hydrogen production by 2030. However, it’s early days for this industry and in fact there is almost no low-carbon production of hydrogen in the UK or globally now. The industry will need “rapid and significant scale-up” in the coming years if it is to be part of the solution. The government is promising a decision on the role of hydrogen in heating by 2026.

Carbon Capture and Storage

The government is highly reliant on new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, to allow the continued use of fossil fuels without releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The ability to capture carbon and store it is essential for the UK to reach net zero by 2050. The government is planning to capture and store between 20 and 30 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030. The technology is still emerging and is very expensive. A project has been planned for North-East Scotland that can extract as much CO2 from the air as 40 million trees can. Two areas have also been chosen to have priority access to government funding for carbon capture projects. They are the Hynet Cluster covering the North-West of England and North Wales, and the East Coast Cluster in the Humber and Teesside. North-east Scotland will be the reserve cluster. Even if the government’s target is met, it will account for less than 3% of current emissions which is far short of the emissions cut required this decade.

Industry

The government has said that it will cut emissions from manufacturing by about two-thirds before 2035. Carbon capture and hydrogen will both play a big role, but substantial progress will be needed in these technologies. The government is also planning to cap the amount of emissions allowed by individual sectors each year, which will reduce gradually. It’s not clear how the scheme will prevent production and emissions shifting to other countries. The CCC has also advised the government that all gas-fired power stations where carbon is emitted and not captured should be phased out by 2035.

Over the past 12 months the government has released several strategies to reduce emissions in key sectors, including transport, industry and hydrogen production. Apart from phasing out petrol and diesel cars in 2030 there have been no new policies that would significantly reduce emissions announced or enacted. Given the limited timeframe between now and 2030, substantially more urgent action is needed if the UK is to live up to its mantle as climate leader.

The current COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow is believed to be crucial for climate change to be brought under control.  Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, and it could lead to big changes in our day-to-day life.

Critics say The Government’s Net Zero Plan Falls Short of What Is Needed

Net Zero

The UK government has finally revealed its net zero strategy just in time for COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow. The government has set out its policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy in a bid to meet its aim of net zero by 2050.

Ministers say that the plan will create 440,000 jobs and “unlock” £90bn in investment in the next decade, most of it from private sector companies. The Net Zero review which was published at the same time by the Treasury says “the costs of global inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action” to tackle climate change. Despite this, experts and campaigners have warned that the UK’s current strategy falls short on ambition and is not backed up with adequate funding.

The plan includes measures designed to drive the transition to new technologies such as electric vehicles, heat pumps, carbon capture, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel. There are also plans to restore approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and create at least 30,000 hectares of woodland per year across the UK in the next 2 to 3 years.

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The announcement of these new measures comes at a time of high energy prices and rising consumer bills. Against a background of uncertainty partly caused by the pandemic, the government is saying that the new investment will provide the UK with energy security and stable prices in the years to come.

Boris Johnson said:

 “The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries – powering our green industrial revolution across the country. By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way.”

Households will be offered grants of £5,000 from April 2022 to help them with the installation of low-carbon heat pumps as part of a £3.9bn plan for decarbonising heat and buildings. However, just £450m is being put aside for the 3-year boiler upgrade scheme which amounts to the installation of 90,000 heat pumps in all. This new grant spells the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive, a financial incentive which has been in place since 2011. If you have the funds to cover the initial outlay for a heat pump this scheme is far more generous than the new grant as it is possible to recoup up to 80% of the cost of installing your heat pump over a period of 7 years as well as saving money on your energy bills. The Renewable Heat Incentive is scheduled to end in March 2022.

Many critics including scientists, green campaigners and even the government’s own supporters find the plan for heat pumps wholly inadequate.

Patrick Hall, a senior research fellow at the Conservative, thinktank Bright Blue said:

“The government’s stated aim is to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, so the maximum of only 90,000 pumps to be covered over the next three years falls far too short. The funding simply isn’t sufficient.”

The government’s new strategy also doesn’t address how the insulation of the UK’s draughty homes will be managed since the failure of the Green Homes Grant earlier this year.

There is an emphasis on carbon capture and storage in the blueprint as well as hydrogen which is controversial as some forms of gas come from fossil fuels. The government had said that it would focus on low-carbon forms generated with renewable energy.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the government that all gas-fired power stations where carbon is emitted and not captured should be phased out by 2035.

Ministers have come under fire this year due to the delay in releasing the plan for net zero. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent statutory body that advises ministers on how to reach net zero, issued a warning this summer that measures were needed urgently as delay would raise their cost.

Katie White, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at World-wide Fund for nature, said:

“We are finally seeing the UK Government set out a positive vision for net zero, sending a clear signal to every sector of the economy on their role, but we are still lacking the full suite of policies and increased funding to close the gap between climate promises and action. The UK can’t afford to stand still, every climate promise must be kept. Future generations won’t forget, and they won’t forgive those who fail to act while there’s still time.”

So where is the money coming from to fund the green plans? Officials say that £26bn of funding will come from the public sector over the next spending review period, from 2021 to 2025, and more than £60bn is expected from the private sector. Another nearly £6bn is coming from overseas investment in green projects since Boris Johnson set out his 10-point plan last year.

However, the parallel document, the Net Zero Review shows that the government are likely to lose tens of billions in revenues from fossil fuel taxes as we switch to renewables and highlighted the risk that green policies may lead to the need for new taxes.

The promise of 440,000 new jobs has also come under close examination after sources at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) claimed the figure was not intended to mean all newly created jobs, but also those that would undergo a natural transition such as employees in car plants moving over to electric vehicles. The government has been reluctant to clarify how many new jobs it expects to create with the strategy, rather than jobs that transition.

Kevin Anderson, a professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, told the Guardian:

“The UK’s net zero strategy falls far short of both its Paris and G7 temperature and equity commitments. Scour the associated spreadsheets and the numbers reveal a story of subterfuge, delusion, offsetting and piecemeal policies – all dressed up as a shiny new strategy for Cop26.”

Green campaigners distrust the speed, extent and funding of the new plans, pointing out the government’s continued support of the expansion of fossil fuel industries through new oil and gas licenses which is at odds with the government’s green promises.

Rebecca Newsome, the head of politics at Greenpeace UK said:

“This document is more like a pick and mix than the substantial meal that we need to reach net zero. Extra cash for tree planting and progress on electric vehicles doesn’t make up for the lack of concrete plans to deliver renewables at scale, extra investment in public transport, or a firm commitment to end new oil and gas licences.”

Responding to the announcement of the new strategy, Community Energy England, the sector body for energy co-ops and community energy businesses said that the plan contained no practical support measures to harness the potential of community energy.

Back in April, the Environmental Audit Committee highlighted the benefits of community energy in terms of creating  jobs, boosting local economies, tackling fuel poverty and engaging citizens.

The Environmental Audit Committee warned:

“We heard that the same benefits will not be achieved if energy decarbonisation is only achieved via commercial, large-scale renewable projects. Due to the urgency of the climate crisis and the vital roles communities will have to play in reaching net zero, it is essential that a timely solution to support the long-term growth of community energy across the UK is found.”

Community Energy England added:

“The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget said unequivocally, ‘if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge – the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050… people need to be brought into the decision-making process and derive a sense of ownership of the Net Zero project.’

“Community energy is a key way of engaging people to ‘own’ the Net Zero project and is essential to achieving it.”

Community energy doesn’t go unmentioned. The government have at least declared an intention “to work in partnership with people and communities across the country”.

James Wright, policy officer at Co-operatives UK, has also called for more recognition for the community energy sector though he welcomed recognition in the strategy that SMEs will need help in the transition to net zero.

He said:

“Our latest research suggests that 40% of co-ops could benefit from grants to help develop and implement net zero plans while 20% would need investment support to finance their transitions. We are encouraged that the British Business Bank has been tasked with supporting SMEs to move towards net zero, but for this to be useful to co-ops the bank will need to adapt its current investment products to cater to the distinctive features of their model.”

Successive governments have to some extent been successful in cutting emissions from energy. Emissions fell by 40% between 1990 and 2019 as a result of closing coal-fired power stations and spending money on solar, wind and nuclear energy. The UK is a world leader in offshore wind. It currently has capacity of about 10GW, which the government has promised to quadruple by 2030. However, if we are to achieve this, there will need to be much more energy storage for times when the wind doesn’t blow.

It appears that there are many gaps in the government’s new strategy, and we can only hope that the measures that have been introduced are built upon and enhanced as soon as possible and before it’s too late.