Britain’s net zero strategy sets out roadmap to 'clean energy' by 2035

Government reveals green plan with sector-specific carbon emission reduction targets

The interior of a welded steel dome that will be placed on top of the nuclear island that houses the reactor at Hinkley Point C power plant near Bridgwater in Somerset. PA
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A long-term strategy document from the British government has set out a goal of clean energy generation by 2035 as funds were lined up to support a net-zero carbon target for vehicles and the overhaul of industry and homes.

Greg Hands, the Energy Minister, said almost half a million jobs across sectors could flow from the government policies across all parts of the UK.

"This is not just an environmental transition, it represents an important economic change too," he said. "We will fully embrace this new green industrial revolution helping the UK to level up as we build back better and get to the front of the global race to go green.

"We need to capitalise on this to ensure British industries and workers benefit. I can therefore announce that the strategy will support up to 440,000 jobs across sectors and across all parts of the UK in 2030."

The government’s Net Zero Strategy is the detailed roadmap setting out how the UK will meet its goal of lowering carbon emissions. Investment was announced for electric car grants, on-street charging points and planting trees as part of longer-range plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The statement was unveiled before crucial UN Cop26 climate talks, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow, with ministers hoping to set an example to other countries on how to go green.

The strategy called for the expansion of 40 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, with more onshore, solar and other renewables.

Britain’s fuel shortage and the wider energy crisis in Europe have highlighted the shortcomings of over-reliance on fossil fuels in recent weeks, helping to hasten the adoption of clean, renewable energy generation.

A role for nuclear power was outlined as the government said it would decide on funding for new plants before the end of the current parliamentary term, expected in 2024. The strategy included the launch of a £120 million ($165.7m) Future Nuclear Enabling Fund, retaining options for nuclear technology, including small modular reactors, with a number of potential sites including Wylfa in North Wales.

The Sizewell C site, a nuclear power plant being endorsed by EDF Energy for Suffolk in eastern England, is widely tipped to receive government funding to help the UK meet its ambitions.

This will complement EDF’s Hinkley Point C which is due to be finished in 2026.

The creation of a “regulated asset base” model will be crucial to delivering large atomic power stations. Under the plan, households will be charged for the cost of a plant via an energy levy long before it begins generating electricity.

Ministers are backing smaller modular reactors, or SMRs, which are being developed by a consortium led by Rolls-Royce.

Supporters of SMRs say these could be built in factories at lower cost and risk than at large atomic plants, with expectations the government will approve them to ensure the UK hits the target of zero-carbon electricity by 2015.

Other expectations from the government documents include carbon emission reduction targets for 2035 for sectors such as power, industry, transport, fuel supply and hydrogen.

These include an 80 per cent-85 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for the power sector, a 47 per cent-59 per cent cut for the transport industry and a 63 per cent-76 per cent reduction for industry.

Buildings must cut carbon emissions by 47 per cent-62 per cent, a figure that reflects the level of behavioural change needed among consumers to adapt to a low-carbon future, as well as the cost of transforming millions of homes across the UK.

The Labour opposition said the announcement fell well short of what was needed. "The plan falls short on delivery, and while there is modest short-term investment, there is nothing like the commitment we believe is required. And we know why," said Ed Miliband, the opposition spokesman. "My fear is this plan will not deliver the fair, prosperous transition we need equal to the scale of the emergency we face."

While the government previously outlined its major climate commitments, including achieving net zero by 2050 and reducing emissions overall by 78 per cent in 2035 when compared to 1990 levels, this is the first time it will lay out a sector-by-sector breakdown.

On Monday, the government banned the sale of new gas boilers beyond 2035, with grants of £5,000 offered to British households to replace such apparatus with a low-carbon heat pump to help cut emissions from homes.

Switching to low-carbon heating would reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels and exposure to global price surges in gas, ministers said. The move would also support up to 240,000 jobs across the UK by 2035, they said.

This falls in line with Mr Johnson’s pledge this month to produce "clean power" by 2035.

Meanwhile, the UK has received criticism of its Cop26 planning, with participants complaining about the high cost of renting pavilions for meetings and panel discussions at the event.

Some say the cost is 20 per cent higher than Cop25 in Madrid in 2019.

There are also public order concerns with up to 150,000 protesters expected to take to Glasgow’s streets during the crucial climate talks, which will strain local policing.

Updated: October 19, 2021, 2:14 PM