The UK Sets Out Environmental Plans To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A plant growing inside a lightbulb The UK government's latest strategy to make the shift to a virtually zero-carbon economy includes a big push towards electric vehicles.

Ministers have said they will invest £620m in grants for electric vehicles and street charging points, with car makers being directed to sell a proportion of clean vehicles each year. On top of this, an extra £350m has been pledged to help the automotive supply chain move to electricity.

The government’s new plan is intended to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is needed to reach a target of net zero by 2050. If the UK achieves net zero emissions, it means they are no longer adding to the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The UK has already made good progress in cutting these emissions, with a 40% reduction in 2019 levels compared to 1990.

A fleet of electric vans

The government has also announced a strategy to moderate emissions from the 30 million buildings in the UK.

Grants of up to £5,000 to install low-carbon heat pumps to replace gas boilers will be available for homeowners to apply for.

The government is also offering a further £120m to develop factory-built small "modular" nuclear reactors (SMRs). Rolls Royce are heavily promoting these mini-reactors. However, critics are saying the technology won't be developed in time to help meet the UK's carbon targets.

There's been much speculation about a go-ahead for Sizewell C, a proposed new nuclear power station, in Suffolk. It seems funding has been a key sticking point though, with an announcement being put off until the Chancellor's spending review next week.

There will be an extra £625m for tree-planting and peat restoration, too – even though the current schedule is running way behind its targets.

Two clusters promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS) to produce hydrogen have received a £140m commitment from the government. These hubs will be the North-West of England and North Wales, plus Teeside and Humberside. Heavy industries in these areas will be fuelled by hydrogen split from natural gas, with the resulting CO2 emissions pumped into undersea rocks for storage.

This is a controversial idea, as environmentalists believe hydrogen should be obtained instead through electrolysis using surplus wind energy.

After usage from industry, it seems unlikely that there will be much hydrogen left over to heat people's homes. This has resulted in the government postponing any decision about hydrogen boilers until 2026, when the situation will hopefully be clearer.

Ministers are emphasising their intention that business will lead the net zero transition, saying it will create 440,000 jobs and attract up to £90bn of private investment by 2030. The government claims it has invested £26bn of public funds into the low-carbon revolution since the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for the climate was announced a year ago, including an extra £500m fund for low carbon innovation.

Environmentalists will doubtlessly be scrutinising the government’s numbers to see if the recent policy announcements will be fit for the task of decarbonising the UK economy by 2050.

Solar panels and wind towers in a city