The key climate policies in Boris Johnson’s net zero strategy

Here are the key takeaways from the document 

Boris Johnson is keen to persuade voters that Britain can go carbon neutral without pain. In a foreword to the document, he writes: “This strategy shows how we can build back greener without so much as a hair shirt in sight. 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.”

• The strategy document states that more than £26bn of government investment in a “green industrial revolution” will support 190,000 jobs by 2025, and 440,000 by 2030, while leveraging up to £90bn of private investment by 2030. This will help the UK meet its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 68 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and delivering a “decarbonised economy” by 2050.

• The strategy commits the government to four principles: the net zero programme will “work with the grain of consumer choice” and will not force households to scrap existing boilers and cars; fair carbon pricing will ensure the biggest polluters pay most for the transition; the most vulnerable will be protected with financial support; government will work with business to deliver affordable low-carbon tech.

• The UK is planned to be powered entirely by clean electricity by 2035, “subject to security of supply”. This will involve the go-ahead for at least one new large-scale nuclear plant – and possibly two – by 2024, alongside 40GW of offshore wind power by 2030 and more onshore wind, solar and other renewables. A new £120m “future nuclear enabling fund” will develop technologies for smaller reactors, with Wylfa in north Wales among potential sites.

• The strategy commits £140m for a new hydrogen and industrial carbon capture business scheme, with industrial “clusters” in Teesside and the Humber, Merseyside and north Wales to become economic hubs for green jobs.

• It confirms the “ambition” to end sales of new gas boilers by 2035, with £450m to provide £5,000 grants for 90,000 households to switch to heat pumps.

• A “zero emission vehicle mandate” will be introduced to deliver on the commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and ensure that all cars are “zero emissions capable” by 2035. Funding of £620m will go towards zero emission vehicle grants and electric vehicle infrastructure, including on-street charging points. There will also be £3bn for bus networks and £2bn for cycling and walking. Trials will be undertaken of HGV zero-emission technology.

• The strategy sets out the “aim” of making Britain a world-leader in the zero emission fight.

• It says the government will restore around 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050 and treble woodland creation rates.

• Mortgage providers could be required to meet targets to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings on which they have provided loans – potentially making it more difficult for homeowners to secure mortgages without putting in insulation and other carbon-saving measures.

UK’s net zero strategy has a glaring omission: Rishi Sunak

Amid the hundreds of pages of the UK government’s comprehensive net zero strategy, there is one glaring omission – Rishi Sunak.

But Johnson’s desire to always please the crowd has left the trickiest problems ignored.

Damian Carrington 

The roadmap to end the nation’s contribution to the climate crisis by 2050 is comprehensive. But it is seriously underfunded and without Sunak’s backing, it could as easily become the route to climate hell as climate salvation.

As the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said on Tuesday: “I can deploy billions – with the approval of the chancellor.” Four ministers, the chief scientific adviser, and Alok Sharma, Cop26 president, all spoke up via the government’s press release. Sunak, or indeed any Treasury minister, was conspicuous by his absence.

Johnson promised to “unleash the unique creative power of capitalism to drive the innovation that will bring down the costs of going green” and deliver trillions from the private sector. But whether it is heat pumps, hydrogen trucks, green airplanes, or small nuclear reactors, public money is essential to kickstart the net zero journey and turn expensive new technology into affordable everyday infrastructure.

The fear had been that Sunak and the Treasury were obsessed with only one half of the net zero balance sheet – the costs. But a Treasury review published alongside the net zero strategy takes the same line as all serious economic analysis of climate action: “The costs of global inaction significantly outweigh the costs of action.”

The review goes further, noting the “multiple market failures” of the fossil fuel economy and saying: “UK climate action could provide a boost to the economy. There will also be co-benefits, such as [£35bn worth of] improved air quality.” It also notes the important role of public spending and that low-income groups must be protected from the upfront costs of going green – vital if the political fight for net zero is to be won.

But why is Sunak so shy of all this that he did not put his name to it? ​​Shaun Spiers, at the Green Alliance, said: “We need a more ambitious response from the chancellor at the spending review to turn these promises into jobs, growth and benefits to consumers.”

The spending review takes place on 27 October, four days before Cop26 begins in Glasgow. At the summit, the UK must win big pledges from all the major nations on emissions cuts and climate funding. Without credible action at home, that will be even tougher than it was already.

Johnson will be able to point at some striking steps forward, such as the end of new gas boilers by 2035, even if he is reticent to call it a ban. A mandate requiring carmakers to sell a minimum proportion of electric cars – starting in 2024 and presumably rising to 100% by 2030 – is a strong move.

The shiny tech so beloved of the prime minister gets a good shot of research money too, such as the £100m for technology to suck CO2 from the air and £380m for offshore windfarms, including ones that float.

But Johnson’s desire to always please the crowd has left the trickiest problems ignored. Meat consumption must fall to hit climate goals, but it is not mentioned anywhere in the 368-page strategy. His yearning for “guilt-free” flying is backed only by a plan for 10% of aviation fuel to be sustainable by 2030. The Treasury review warns of the huge tax loss when petrol and diesel cars have run their race, but the obvious replacement – per mile road pricing – is never mentioned.

Overall, the good news is that the net zero strategy largely mirrors the guidance of the Climate Change Committee, the government’s official advisers. But whether it gets the funding it needs to become a reality, just in time for Cop26, is up to Sunak.

Implement ‘plan B’ winter measures now or risk NHS crisis, Johnson warned

Ministers must urgently implement sweeping “plan B” winter measures or derail efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients, the head of the NHS Confederation warned as the UK recorded its highest daily Covid death toll since March.

[This comes hours after Downing Street ruled out a Plan B at this stage, it has not been discussed in Cabinet]

Andrew Gregory 

Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.

On Tuesday the UK reported 223 Covid deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test – the highest for seven months – while the seven-day average for Covid-19 cases stands at 44,145 a day. The UK now has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world.

Downing Street said it was keeping a “very close eye” on the situation. But Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis” where the elective care recovery would be jeopardised.

Taylor said: “We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October. It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

“The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to plan B, but it should be plan B plus. We should do what’s in plan B in terms of masks … working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

Ministers should encourage the public to do their bit by using the NHS responsibly, looking out for neighbours, volunteering or even re-entering the healthcare workforce, Taylor added.

“We need that same sense of pulling together over the next few months, trying to avoid risky behaviour if it’s not necessary. This is not a question of if we don’t do it something might happen. If we don’t do it, it would take a miracle for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a really profound crisis in our health and social care system over the next three months.”

Boris Johnson has said that if the government’s “plan A” – encouraging take-up of Covid booster and flu jabs – was not sufficient to prevent “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS it would roll out plan B. This includes compulsory face masks in some settings, asking people to work from home and introducing vaccine passports. The prime minister’s official spokesman yesterday said there were “no plans” to use the contingency measures set out in the government’s winter strategy.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said Johnson was showing his “characteristic complacency” in the face of growing warnings from experts, but stopped short of calling for “plan B” to be activated. He urged the government “to be more vocal, to step up and assure the public that they have learned the lessons of last year”.

Scientists are also urging ministers to introduce plan B. Prof Christina Pagel of UCL said: “We are now seeing cases and hospital admissions rising steadily and an out of control epidemic within schools. The government must switch to its plan B immediately and accelerate rollout of vaccines, including to those who are yet to be vaccinated at all or are just on one dose.”

Prof Rowland Kao, a member of the SPI-M advisory committee, speaking in a personal capacity, added: “Light touch measures, especially where these are unlikely to negatively impact people’s livelihoods or cause indirect harm, should be welcome … I do think they would be helpful now.”

Prof Mark Woolhouse, also of Spi-M and speaking in a personal capacity, said he was in favour of taking some action now “because early action can be less drastic action”.

Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said there was a need to speed up boosters and vaccinations of teenagers, whom he suggested should get two doses of a jab to block infection and transmission.

Jim McManus, interim president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said there was an urgent need “to look seriously at, and consult on, the exact measures and most appropriate timing of plan B … we need to tread carefully as lockdowns and complacency are extremes we need to avoid”.

The number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England alone has hit a record high of 5.7 million as the NHS struggles to clear the growing backlog of care worsened by the pandemic.

Taylor said the NHS carried out 1.1m procedures in August and that it was facing “rocketing demand for hospital care as well as mental health services, ambulance services and primary care”.

More “goings on” in Mid Devon

Conspiracy theories abound, should they send for Jackie Weaver or just check the spam filter? – Owl

Call to end council ‘nonsense’ in Cullompton

Lewis Clarke 

Cullompton Town Council has been told it cannot continue with ‘nonsense’ after complaints about its procedures and communication with the public.

Speaking in public question time at Cullompton Town Council’s previous meeting, former member of the council, Mike Thompson said that recorded documents had not been sent to members with enough time before meetings.

He said: “At the resources meeting on September 9, the clerk was challenged on the matter and admitted she had got it wrong for a number of years, therefore, it was not a proper meeting.

“There were apologies made by the clerk, and suggested the meeting be rearranged for another date, which it was.

“I went onto the council website to check the agenda to summon people to this meeting, and the attached documents as required in legislation. Appendices were missing, but now, several documents have been created three days before this meeting.

“After this was cleared and raised at resources, it appears, this council is permitting a vagrant breach of rules and regulation.”

He addressed the chair Katheryn Haslett adding: “Owing to that meeting on September 9, I sent an email stating my concerns over the breach of the summonsing and documents as raised by Councillor James Buczkowski.

“I asked you to reply to me in person, and have an investigation. As stated, I was not making a formal complaint at that moment in time.

“You had an opportunity to reply or phone me out of courtesy and discuss the matter. I have had no replies. I sent a second email to you, and sent two to the deputy to the mayor. I have not had a satisfactory reply.

“I have sent an email to all councillors giving them an opportunity to say what is wrong, where have we gone wrong and what we do to correct it. What is the risk to the council? What is our legal obligations?

“Either my emails are being blocked by a snooper who is well documented, and I know who it is, or emails are being tampered with and being diverted away from those receiving them.

“This needs to be cleared up. I have made a complaint to the ICO and am now considering malpractice in public office on the council as a whole.”

Cllr Haslett said she had received no emails, despite Mr Thompson pointing out he had sent it to both her council and personal addresses.

She said: “I am aware there are particular things you put in with your emails that must be getting filtered.

“If you wish to contact me I would suggest from now on you do it in writing and drop it into the office so we do not have this problem again.”

Cllr Buczkowski added: “We are following the legislation surrounding supporting documents. In regards to the council’s own rules, councillors and members of the public have a reasonable expectation that we will follow our own rules and sadly we are seriously failing on that.

“I raised a point earlier that we need to take immediate and decisive action to correct our wrongdoings in not following our own rules.

“This council resolved on September 27, 2018, that all supporting papers must be sent out with the agenda within three clear days. It’s not so much we’re not following legislation; we’re breaking our own rules which some may argue is even worse. We need to follow our own rules, or something needs to be put to us to say why we can’t follow them.

“We cannot continue with this nonsense any longer.”

Councillor Gordon Guest said it was ‘very confusing’ that papers were being received in ‘dribs and drabs’.

“I’m on a number of committees at Devon County and other places and that doesn’t happen, you get everything at once,” he said.

“It’s confusing when we have a range of appendices coming forward in two or three different emails and it’s hard to follow everything.”

Councillor Chris Snow added: “If we’re missing documents and they’re late coming, it doesn’t give us a lot of time to make informed decisions.

“Five clear days under legislation is quite reasonable and I think we should follow it.”

More criticism to the council was made about items not appearing on agendas.

Cllr Buczkowski added: “During our last full council meeting it was agreed that the question of additional planting of trees on Tiverton Road be passed to the community and wellbeing committee for consideration. At the last committee meeting some time after the meeting it was not on the agenda, nor was it discussed.

“I raised this at the meeting and the deputy clerk informed the committee that they did not know anything about it. It amazed me.

“It is very concerned about the robustness of the process that ensures issues are dealt with and officers are fully informed. I cannot understand why we have an action list, and we are making decisions, yet the deputy clerk knew nothing about it when it was relevant to her committee.”

Cllr Buczkowski also raised concerns regarding the two charities the council manages.