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Source: United Kingdom – Science Media Centre

Boris Johnson has announced the government’s ten point plan for a green economy, jobs and industry.

Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Director, Cambridge Zero, University of Cambridge, said:

“Recovering from the pandemic in a way that shapes a better, more secure, green future requires investment in green jobs, technology, infrastructure and institutional frameworks. This Green Industrial Revolution plan marks an important step towards reducing emissions and restoring the UK’s natural environment, but even greater ambition is needed to address the scale and urgency of the climate and nature crises.

“Our work has highlighted that investing in clean energy, zero-carbon transport, green technologies and in nature can deliver tens of thousands of new jobs, provide strong economic multipliers and, if directed appropriately, can help tackle social inequalities. This is a crucial moment for UK leadership in the global race against climate change and towards net zero – it is the moment to demonstrate an unambiguous commitment to building a resilient, inclusive and sustainable world.”

Prof Rich Pancost, Head of the School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, said:

“Carbon dioxide levels have now surpassed those of the past 3 million years, and we have reached those levels at rates nearly unprecedented in our planet’s history. The impacts of the associated warming on climate and ecosystems are now impossible to ignore. The climate emergency is no longer a prediction but an ongoing reality. 

“Consequently, any action to transform our economy and end our carbon dependency is welcomed, especially action that is aligned with a wider job creation strategy. We have built our society on fossil fuels; their influence permeates every aspect of our lives. Given that, it is hard to gauge how far these new proposals will go in making a deep and genuine difference. In at least some cases, they appear more aspirational than bold. I welcome these new announcements but encourage the government to invest more and with greater urgency. And as we prepare to host COP26, we must create a roadmap with specific paths and targets to net zero carbon.”

Joint quote from Dr Karen Hanghøj, Executive Director, and Prof Mike Stephenson, Executive Chief Scientist, British Geological Survey:

“The Prime Minister’s statement illustrates how important geology and geological technology are for the energy transition and for the commitment to achieve net zero. The underground plays a vital part in this agenda, and we recommend more funding for research in this area, and policy and regulatory support to improve confidence and to encourage people to get involved and make a green industrial revolution a reality for the UK.

“The British Geological Survey’s (BGS) role in providing expert and independent advice on key areas of geoscience, places us in a unique position to work with partners in supporting the net zero agenda.

“The BGS will continue to research the optimal use of the rocks under the seabed for carbon dioxide and hydrogen storage, as well as establish the geological foundations of the infrastructure we will need to realise this important endeavour – new platforms, new windfarms and new pipeline infrastructure.

“Through the newly established £31 million UK Geo-energy Observatories, the broader research community, with BGS will research the extraction of geothermal heat from old coal mines and other buried rocks, as well as looking into storing industrial heat or summer heat below the surface, so that it can be used later.

“To support the nuclear industry, BGS will research the safe and long-term disposal of radioactive waste in deep, secure underground vaults so that it will be safe for future generations, and so that the UK can benefit from low carbon, reliable baseload electricity.

“We welcome the Government’s support for the UK’s world-leading car manufacturing in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales. As the UK’s national provider of information and data on metals critical for battery manufacture, the BGS will research both the prospects for metal extraction in the UK, but also the international security of supply of metals and materials which are critical for the UK’s net zero aims.”

Prof Simon Lewis, Chair of Global Change Science, University College London, said:

“Is this new plan enough?  The key test is, will it halve UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and put the UK on the road to eliminating the other half by 2050?  This will need to be shown to be able to lead by example as host of the COP26 presidency.”

Dr Michael Ramage, Director of the Centre for Natural Material Innovation and Reader in Architecture and Engineering, University of Cambridge, said:

“The PM and the UK government should go even further, faster, and more economically by linking the ambitions of the 10 points.  For example, If we mandated timber construction for more efficient housing and public buildings (point 7), we could store 10 MT of Carbon capture (point 8) in our buildings each year, while providing a pathway for economic and environmentally sustainable use of the thousands of hectares of trees that will be planted (point 9).”

Prof Mike Hulme, Professor of Human Geography, University of Cambridge, said:

“The significance of this Plan lies in the fact that this is a Conservative Government committing substantial amounts of public money to secure medium and long-term welfare and environmental goals.  It is particularly important to pursue a wide portfolio of measures, as this Plan does: wind and nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture, electric vehicles and energy efficiency.  Opposition parties should not nit-pick about precise details nor argue over whether or not it will deliver this-or-that reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by this-or-that date.  Far more important is to endorse the direction of travel that has been set for the next decade and to hold the Government to account and ensure there is no back-sliding.”

Prof Daniela Schmidt, Research Director, Faculty of Science, University of Bristol, said:

“The government’s green plan addresses many technological solutions for a reduction of CO2 emissions. It will be fundamental to the success of the initiatives that these CO2 emission reductions and carbon capture initiatives will be assessed where they can be placed best without causing large problems by themselves such as fast growing trees in monocultures, windfarms impacting marine environments or reduction of land for an ecological food production. We need to know what works where, when and how to invest the funds to achieve a meaningful reduction in emissions and ensure that the public is supporting these initiatives.

“Importantly, the government plans focus solely on mitigation of further climate change. They are ignoring that we have already committed to significant warming and need ambitious and effective adaptation to the impacts this warming will have.”

Prof Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy at UCL, said:

“Whilst there has been a lot of discussion about whether the UK’s net-zero target should be brought forward from 2050, the priority should be on government action to reduce emissions over the coming decade. This action plan promises to do that. It is not enough to meet carbon budgets and targets, but it represents a significant step forward. It is welcome that it combines climate action with job creation and industrial development throughout the UK.

“The earlier 2030 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles is both necessary and deliverable – aided by more investment in charging and grants to help people buy electric vehicles, and complemented by investment in cycling, walking and public transport. The extension of the Green Homes Grant is also welcome – though this will need to go much further if we are to see big reductions in emissions from homes and 600,000 heat pumps a year being installed by the late 2020s. Among other things, this is likely to require similar regulatory interventions to those in road transport, to ensure that gas-fired boilers are phased out in a timely way.

“As expected, there is also strong support for hydrogen, which has potential. The plans to demonstrate hydrogen heating systems in homes at scale are positive. But the promise of the first hydrogen town by 2030 is premature. It would be better to wait for the outcome of neighbourhood and village trials before placing a larger bet on hydrogen heating.

“Once again, there is £1bn on the table to support carbon capture and storage technologies, which are likely to be essential for decarbonising industry and delivering negative emissions. It remains to be seen whether this funding will be deployed this time around. The details of how this will be delivered matter, including what incentives there will be for investment in carbon dioxide and storage infrastructure”

Prof Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford, said:

“Pleased to see plans for advancing nuclear. We need low-carbon energy for the month or longer periods when blocking anticyclones dominate the winter weather and where the wind isn’t blowing much and stratus cloud decks block the sun.”

Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, University of Oxford, said:

“There is a striking similarity between the PM’s 10-point plan and that released a couple of weeks ago by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Net Zero. Fair enough, it’s clear what needs to be done. But there is one important difference: the PM doesn’t say who is going to pay for carbon capture in the long term. It’s fine to use public money to get it going, but it’s not fair on taxpayers to spend all that without a clear business model for the private sector to take over. There is a really simple solution – called a Carbon Takeback Obligation – which would spread the cost over the entire fossil fuel industry and its customers, keeping it manageable and fair. Bring this in, and net zero by 2050 really does start to look within reach. 

 

Dr Ajay Gambhir, Senior Research Fellow at Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, at Imperial College London, said:

“This is the right time for the government to invest in a big way to accelerate a shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy, particularly in the transport, buildings and manufacturing sectors, which have really lagged the impressive performance of the electricity sector in recent years.  The announcement suggests the government understands the sectors and technologies it needs to target. 

“But – although certainly not trivial – the proposed investment levels aren’t up to the scale of what’s likely to be needed to make the requisite rapid and fundamental shifts in the infrastructure to support electric cars, generate low-carbon hydrogen and make our homes and offices much more energy efficient and low-carbon. 

“Some other countries’ investment commitments are much greater, so a key question here is whether the government has sent a strong enough signal to crowd in significant private investment. It will probably need to add to this initial announcement to do that in a major way, so as to convince private investors and businesses that it really intends to get net-zero done.”

 

Dr Greg Alexander, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, Newcastle University, said:

“The commitment to carbon capture in the UK is very welcome, but as this type of support has been promised before and was removed at the last minute, we must ensure that it is delivered this time.

“As these carbon capture projects are largely planned for regions with a long and proud industrial heritage, but where there is significant unemployment now, there will need to be further support for training and reskilling so that jobs go to people living in the local community.

“Although the announcement is heading in the right direction, it is disappointing to see no specific mention of negative emissions technologies as ultimately net zero is only a first step towards going net negative; we need to be thinking about how we do that now.”

Prof Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at UCL, said:

“The Government’s ten-point Green Industrial Revolution plan is a welcome start after ten years of completely ignoring the sustainability and carbon net zero agendas.

“Each of the ten points is sensible and an area that the Government must focus on, but they lack ambition when matched to the scale of the issue. Remember the Government is mandated by UK law to reach zero net carbon by 2050. Taking every number suggested by the Government and doubling it would still not be enough to get the UK to our 2030 target.

“One area that is missing from this Green revolution is agriculture and the encouraging the shift to a more vegetable based UK diet. There are huge opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and even to increase carbon storage in soils. The focus on reforestation needs to be much more ambitious as at least another 5% of Britain will need to be forested to ensure we make net zero. But rewilding and protecting the UK biodiversity must also be priorities.

“The government also needs to include solar, tidal and micro- energy generation, and provide significant investment to build a UK-wide smart grid.”

Prof Neil Adger, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter, said:

“Despite massive green investments, the country still faces the impacts of climate change. Reducing the UK’s carbon footprint will yield major benefits from avoiding catastrophic climate change in the future.  

“The £5.2 billion earmarked (but previously announced by DEFRA) for flood and coastal defence needs to be green, to work with nature, and to protect vulnerable communities – not just high value infrastructure.

“Stopping new development on flood plains through careful reform of the planning system would be a good start to making towns, cities and coastal communities more resilient to future floods and storms that are already baked in due to climate change. In the end, this would be cheaper than being forced to spend billions on flood defences.”

Prof Jon Gibbins, Director of the UK CCS Research Centre and Professor of CCS, University of Sheffield, said:

The plans to deploying carbon capture and storage are a climate revolution as well as a new industrial revolution.  CCS, including removing CO2 from the air, is a game-changer for actually being able to deliver Paris goals, so the UK’s job at the Glasgow COP has just got a lot easier.

“The commitment to two CCS clusters straight away and two more by 2030 could definitely make the UK the global leader in the field.  But we do need to learn from experience with other technologies and build up our own engineering and science resources to deliver the associated jobs and value, rather than just allowing businesses from other countries to exploit the invaluable opportunities that this government vision and funding provides.”

Dr Peter Clough, Lecturer in Energy Engineering at Cranfield University, said:

“It is good to see the government commit to a clear outline strategy, this will provide confidence to industry for future investment decisions. In particular, the recognition of the importance of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage in order to decarbonise key industries is especially welcome as we have lacked a clear decision for too long.

“The funding provided does seem only a portion of the total required to hit these 2030 targets, but is a welcome starting point.”

James Robottom, Sustainability and Climate Change Lead, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said:

“Engineering is at the heart of the list of the Government’s plans and investments towards achieving net-zero by 2050. For engineers to deliver this ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, Government must invest intelligently and coherently in infrastructure that can support the proposals.

“If the UK is to reach the levels of ‘green jobs’ and the positive outcome outlined in the strategy – the majority of which will be in the engineering sector – it is vital to have the right level of investment in skills and training. It is of paramount importance that high-quality training and skilling is delivered across both the growing industries, as well as providing support and re-training for engineers in industries which will be reducing jobs.

“The opportunity for a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is significant, but industries as well as the public will need the confidence to invest in innovative new approaches and technologies which can put us on the path to sustainability and net-zero.

“What is outlined will require a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach that will change and affect the way that many of us live and work – we implore this Government and subsequent Governments to ensure they take a long-term approach and put engineering knowledge and skills at the heart of their decision-making.”

Paul Tremble, Chief Strategy Officer at WSP, said:

“In politics timing is everything, and when it comes to dealing with climate change, time is of the essence. Only last week, the Prime Minister rallied the international community to propose strong Nationally Determined Contributions ahead of COP26, saying there was ‘no time to waste’.

“Now he has provided more detail on his plans for the UK. The £12 billion underpinning the 10 Point Plan for Net Zero is clearly welcome news. More so than the headline figure, it is the emergence of greater detail that we had been waiting for. Proven technologies are getting the backing they desperately need, while new innovative solutions are being nurtured.

“The broad direction of travel is the right one. As WSP has called for, additional funds to drive the hydrogen and CCUS burgeoning markets, especially in the North, gives business the confidence that Government is serious about scaling up these technologies. Aiming for 5GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2030 with £240 million cash injection for new production facilities and committing to £200 million to create news carbon capture clusters are great news for clients in Teesside, Northwest and the Humber.

“Bringing forward the ban of selling new petrol and diesel cars to 2030 is another strong signal to the market that change is coming faster than planned, and that the future of mobility is electric. However, with only one in six councils equipped with EV charging points, we will need to see a bold supporting infrastructure strategy, building on today’s £1.3 billion announcement.

“The £4bn investment in the creation of green collar jobs is welcome. At a time when many are seeking employment, and as the retrofit and energy efficiency industry speaks of a skills shortage, this investment will help address both challenges together. With one million heat pumps to be installed each year, this extra support will be welcome.

“Just as important – but less flashy – is the £40m commitment to habitat restoration and renewal. Nature renewal and biodiversity protection are critical to any progressive agenda and seeing Government allocate specific funding to it is positive news, but more investment is surely needed if Government is serious about its commitment to protect and restore 30% of the countryside by 2030.”

Dr Jeffrey Hardy, Senior Research Fellow, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said:

“The 10-point plan is welcome and ambitious. Many of the elements (electric vehicles, warm homes, etc) are inherently local. Our work in the Energy Revolution Research Consortium suggests adopting a smart, local energy systems approach could unlock more benefits, deliver faster and in a way that suits the needs of different places in the UK.”

Prof Peter Styring, Director of the UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilization and Professor of Chemical Engineering & Chemistry, University of Sheffield, said:

“The government’s 10 point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is a great step forward in the fight against climate emergency – on the surface.  However, many of these individual initiatives have been on the table for a while and the funding already committed.  What it does is allows the UK to begin to catch up with those nations who have been committed to actions for a number of years already, most notably Germany, The Netherlands and France.  The funding committed is a fraction of that which is required so it is hoped that this will become a year-on-year commitment with increased support as the technologies mature. It is notable that major international companies such as Unilever and Microsoft are already making 1bn $/€ investments in removing fossil carbon from products and in climate innovation respectively.

“I really hope that this time around the inclusion of carbon dioxide utilisation within a broader CCUS initiative, as agreed under Mission Innovation in 2017, will allow projects to realise their commercial potential. The cancellation of the two previous CCS competitions, most recently in 2015, have set the effort back in CO2 mitigation. Hopefully any new competition will progress beyond the design phase.

“It is surprising that the Prime Minister has not highlighted the need to move away from a linear economy where vast quantities of waste are generated, to a circular economy where someone’s waste becomes another person’s feedstock. It is surprising as this was announced only last week with a rousing statement from Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng (www.gov.uk/government/news/225-million-funding-to-turn-industry-waste-into-environmental-wins).

“It should also be remembered that while £12bn has been “mobilised” to address these 10 points, the UK government has for many years subsidised the fossil oil and gas industries, to the value of over £10bn per year as reported by the Guardian in 2019. (www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/23/uk-has-biggest-fossil-fuel-subsidies-in-the-eu-finds-commission). Any real commitment needs to be a transition away from fossil carbon with the subsidies being reallocated towards clean technologies and creating new jobs in those areas.

“We should also be very wary of not creating social injustice through green inequalities. While a transition to a greener economy is highly desirable it will come at a cost. We need to be careful not to create an energy underclass and this will need considerable thought in how to create social investment.”

Declared interests

Prof Schmidt – “No conflicting interest.”

Prof Allen – “no conflicts.”

Prof Hulme – “no conflict of interest.”

Prof Maslin – “No conflict of interests to declare.”

Prof Lewis –  “No interests to declare.”

None others received.

MIL OSI United Kingdom