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expert reaction to the government’s ‘ten point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’

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

 

Prof Rob Gross, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and Professor of Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College London, said:

“It is important not to underplay the significance of this in political terms. It would be churlish not to welcome it. It reverses cuts and sets a level of ambition. 

“The progress we have seen already, mainly in power generation, was the result of sustained commitment even when renewable energy was expensive and sometimes unpopular. We need the same across heating, transport and industries or we will not get anywhere near net zero. 

“Net zero will take £100s of billions and changes to every aspect of life over several decades. This is just a start. 

“We also need to see more action to build skills and supply chains otherwise opportunities to create jobs to level up won’t work. And more help for households with travel and food choices.”

 

Prof Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“The Government is now certainly cooking with hydrogen, rather than cooking with North Sea gas. And that’s very welcome. The low carbon compass orientation to 2050 is correct. And a Green Industrial Revolution across the UK is timely, with UK business and industry ready to change as never before.

“A Saudi Arabia of wind power is probable with Scotland owning more than 23% of European wind  – although that phrase derives from SNP Alex Salmond. And clean wind power can drive electrolysis of water to hydrogen: reusing £23bn of installed gas pipes with minimal excavation of city streets. These can create many tens of thousands of technology jobs.

“For the long-term carbon budget, this is an essential journey, and one which the UK is now very serious about commencing. And if travelled fast enough, this can create new leadership from the UK.  But this is not an oven-ready meal. The Government plan recycles previous funding and spreads a thin veneer of ice cream across reheated mashed potato of already pledged money.

“The quantity of government investment allocated cannot create a new industrial revolution in all UK regions. This needs to enthuse co-travellers from industry, assuming that industry has investable cash remaining after Brexit and the willingness to believe Government has the compass to stay on course rather than tacking if the wind changes.

“Even with this good start, more is needed for a revolution as there is no way that this will get the UK to Net-Zero in 2050, even if we all ride bicycles. Carbon storage of 10 million tonnes a year by 2030 is a very welcome new milestone, but the UK needs to treble that  quantity of carbon stored on our journey to 2050. And for NET zero, we also need to take away carbon already in the atmosphere. This will not be done with carbon taxes, but needs a cheaper and quicker rule to store carbon deep beneath the North Sea. Arithmetic homework is needed as well as ice cream gifts.” 

 

Prof Nilay Shah, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a member of the National Engineering Policy Centre Net Zero working group, says:

“This is an ambitious and broad-ranging announcement. It’s good to see a holistic approach which aims to advance our capabilities across a broad range of domains. There is a good balance of supply, demand and infrastructure interventions planned. However, delivering net-zero in a just and economically beneficial way will require a huge and sustained engineering effort, a clear understanding of how the different interventions work together as a system, and accompanying societal, cultural, behavioural and structural change. It requires a stable commitment by government to net-zero policymaking over the long term that builds on the short term economic recovery and responds to the scale and pace of change required.”

 

Dr Hugh Hunt, Co-Director at the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, said:

“The ten-point climate plan is ambitious – but it needs to be.  We cannot underestimate the scale of engineering and endeavour that is required to meet the target of net-zero by 2050 and this target must not be missed. The costs – which will be eye-watering –  of developing and scaling up zero and negative emissions technologies will be met by this and future governments.  This is a good start but a drop in the ocean.

“It is likely that we will be too slow to implement emissions-reduction measures and the Arctic and Antarctic will carry on melting.  Sea levels will carry on rising and millions of people will be displaced from coastal communities worldwide.  There is an urgent need to develop strategies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and to restore our atmosphere to somewhere near 300ppm of CO2 (from 420ppm at present) .  This is where we were before fossil fuels were taken out of the ground.

“What technologies can remove CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the ground?  And what technologies can re-freeze the Arctic?  We don’t know and funding is required for urgent research into these areas.”

 

Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said:

“The Prime Minister is looking to level up Britain and tackle climate change. At exactly the same time, nature is tragically levelling everything in its path in Nicaragua. Iota is the second massive hurricane to hit Central America in just two weeks, entirely in keeping with the kind of extreme weather we expect to see more of in a hotter world.

“Climate change does not only happen overseas. For a week this August, hundreds more people in Britain likely died from heat than from Covid-19. Yet there was no national or political outcry, and the UK still lacks any coordinated action to cool homes or protect vulnerable people. Spending on flooding is vital, but thousands more will die from heat than floodwater unless we create a proper national plan to prepare for heatwaves.

“The world is looking to Britain to show leadership ahead of the global climate negotiations in Glasgow. This is about far more than levelling up Britain – it is about levelling up the planet.

“It might sound clever to have a plan that you can count on your fingers, but we need to go much, much further if we want to bring about a genuinely green industrial revolution.”

 

Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management & Education, University of Edinburgh, said:

“This is a welcome set of initiatives, but only a small downpayment on what must become a economy-wide revolution in green investment, skills and jobs. The costs of failing to address the climate emergency will dwarf those of Covid; aggressive and sustained support to align every sector and region with our net zero goals is now needed to deliver a sustainable and equitable recovery for all.”

 

Prof Geoffrey Maitland FREng, Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College London, said:

“It is good to see a significant focus on hydrogen as this is needed as the complement to wind to decarbonise domestic heating.  Initially most of this will be ‘blue’ hydrogen made from natural gas which will need point 8, CCS, to remove the co-produced CO2. Producing hydrogen will be a key product of the green industrial clusters, being multi-purpose decarbonised transport and power as well as heating.

“Replacing our dwindling nuclear capacity, much of which is due to be decommissioned soon, is a key element of reaching net zero by 2050.  We need to reinvent and reinvest in our nuclear reactor construction industry to provide clean baseload power to complement wind and other renewables and major employment in northern England.

“The carbon capture initiative is welcome news of significant investment in a key technology without which the UK will not achieve net zero by 2050 and where the UK is playing catch-up after two failed initiatives terminated by the government in 2011 and 2015.  So it is good to see the recommendations of the 2018 CCS Cost Challenge Task Force being followed, with CCS being introduced at up to four industrial clusters involving essential but difficult to decarbonise processes, such as chemicals, cement and steel. These will be too late to impact the 4th carbon budget (2022-26) but will be essential to meet the 5th budget (2026-32) and onwards to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  The design and construction lead time is 2-3 years so it would have been better to have four or more clusters given the green light now to ensure the full impact of this essential technology by the early 1930s.

“Fully deployed and widespread CCS at scale is essential by the 1930s to give the UK the capability to put in place the most cost-effective carbon negative technology through Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) during the next two decades to compensate for emissions from extremely challenging sectors to decarbonise such as air and sea transport, if we are to stand any chance of reaching our legal target net-zero emissions by 2050.  So much of reaching this target therefore depends on widespread CCS capability that makes it essential that this initial investment is (a) sustained in the short term (unlike previous government U-turns to remove investment) and (b) reinforced substantially during the coming decade.  This will pay back multiple times with more jobs, green products and a world-leading CCS capability with enormous export potential.

“The investment in carbon capture clusters is still much less than the >£1bn of funding promised for the CCS competitions in the last decade but with greater ambition.  However, it should stimulate the revitalisation of the depleted chemicals and materials manufacturing sectors in economically-deprived areas of the UK, northern England, Scotland and South Wales, providing much needed-jobs and manufacturing infrastructure.  The clusters will co-produce a range of products from chemicals to hydrogen, from cement to steel and germinate a huge CCS-based industry that could be as big an employer across the UK as North Sea oil and gas was in its heyday.  The price of CCS will plummet by building many large plants through economies of scale and learning by doing, just as has happened with Offshore Wind. 

“The vision for hydrogen is inextricably linked to CCS as an enabler and the graded targets towards a fully-heated Hydrogen Town by 2030 is exciting, although there is potential with more investment to roll this out in at least 6 locations on the same timescale.  Hydrogen, with its multiple green applications, is the ideal complement to increased wind investment.  It has the advantage that ‘blue’ hydrogen from gas plus CCS can be enhanced and eventually replaced by ‘green’ hydrogen from excess cheap renewable electricity used to electrolyse and even cheaper feedstock, water.”

 

Prof Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, said:

“Five years on from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, and the UK Government’s ten-point plan amounts to little more than a rhetorical flourish for which future generations will pay dearly. In the absence of a coordinated, quantitively robust  and timely strategy, its piecemeal proposals are very much part of the problem and not a thought through solution.

“Certainly the increase in wind power is to be welcomed, but the planned 40GW by 2030 is equivalent to around 7% of the UK’s current energy demand. Nuclear is another low carbon option, currently providing a little over 3% of the nation’s energy consumption, yet the Government’s proposal sees this barely increasing over the coming decade or so. There are warm words on hydrogen, with just a single town using it for heating by 2030. As for the UK’s more than 25 million homes, the plan offers just pennies to retrofit these, scarcely scratching the huge scale of the challenge of making UK homes low carbon and climate resilient.

“In reality the plan is simply a future technology wish list, with a dominant focus on energy supply. It fails to recognise the carbon budget imperative that requires deep reductions year-on-year from now. There is no reference to tailoring polices towards the relatively few high emitters responsible for the lion’s share of carbon emissions. Nor does it include a rapid phase out plan for the UK’s own fossil fuel industry, or even a pledge for the Government to stop investing UK tax payers money in fossil fuel projects abroad.”

 

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at the University of Cambridge, said

“The 10-point plan is to be welcomed since we urgently need a green industrial revolution. Much of the discussion is about reducing our emissions, and this is where we need to start. However, is it enough? Once we get to net zero, with carbon capture and storage for example being used to balance the unavoidable emissions, we will still be left with an atmosphere with too much CO2. We therefore need to do more and invest in active greenhouse gas removal solutions. We need to go harder at the climate than simply getting to net zero, although of course this is a necessary first step.”

 

Dr David Reiner, Assistant Director, Energy Policy Research Group, University of Cambridge, said:

“There is much to be commended in the plan in terms of its breadth, but it is still just a down payment and the scale of ambition will need to increase substantially to get on track towards net zero.  In several areas this plan provides a welcome set of initial investments, for example, increasing the number of low-carbon industrial clusters being pursued in the near term, making a first major investment in hydrogen as well as smaller investments in low-carbon aviation and shipping.  However, the level of investment needed to confront our existing infrastructure is clearly not commensurate with the scale of the challenge — spending £1bn next year on homes and public buildings is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed given the dire state of the UK building stock, and the scale of near-term ambition here could easily be increased tenfold.”

 

Prof Nick Eyre, Director of the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) and Professor of Energy and Climate Policy at the University of Oxford, said:

“CREDS welcomes some parts of the 10 point plan, in particular the proposed investment in vehicle electrification, the earlier phase out date for petrol and diesel cars, the ambitious goals for heat pumps, and the scale-up of hydrogen trials and demonstrations. But there remains too little to convince us that the government has yet understood the need to prioritise reducing energy demand.

The commitment to supporting cycling, walking and public transport is welcome, but is too vague to assess whether it promises significant new resources to hard-pressed local Councils. The promise of £1 billion over one year for building energy efficiency is inadequate and fails to recognise the need for long-term investment. It remains less than the support that existed in the period before the failed Green Deal policy, and is insufficient to deliver the goals for low carbon heat.

“Investment in sustainable buildings and mobility needs to be at the centre of zero carbon policy. These are the measures we know will work and will create jobs. The proposed scattergun approach that prioritises funding for uncompetitive big technology, like nuclear and CCS, is wasteful and likely to be ineffective.”

 

Prof Richard Templar, Director of Development for Chemistry and the Director of Innovation at the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“A stimulus for the clean technologies we need to tackle climate change is of course very welcome, but we need to understand that the fiscal stimulus needs to be of a size commensurate with the dimensions of the challenge. We were poorly prepared for the pandemic and the costs have been agonising. Let’s not repeat the mistake with climate change.

“Many recognise that it is vitally important that our recovery from the pandemic simultaneously grows the low carbon and climate resilient economy. This announcement is a first tentative step in that direction. We need to be bolder: greater fiscal stimulus, a more focussed and integrated strategy, coupled to incisive policy.

“Climate change is both this century’s defining challenge and its greatest opportunity. We will need to be bold and entrepreneurial if the UK is to be a leader in shaping a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. This is a first step, but we will need to raise our ambitions much higher if we are to grasp the prize.

“We will not be able to take emissions from activities such as agriculture to zero so I am pleased to see that the government is supporting both reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of emissions from the atmosphere. Good first steps, and the right way to recover from the pandemic, but spearheaded by much greater resourcing and an integrated strategy.

“There was much noise at the last election about reforestation as a method for removing greenhouse gases. This announcement acknowledges the limits of what reforestation and focuses instead on the benefits to biodiversity. Enabling biodiversity recovery is desperately important and the climate change benefit follows.”

 

Prof Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, said:

“At a time of great global crisis, such as has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we can so easily see other major priorities slip down the pecking order.  However, some things just won’t wait. Achieving the UK net zero target by 2050 and addressing the climate crisis are very significant challenges and will require us to throw every technology at our disposal at the problem. We are very probably getting close to the point now where whatever we do is not enough, so the announcement of a Green Industrial Revolution is welcome. This is especially so in relation to the support for carbon capture technologies which can help to address historic greenhouse gas emissions, as long as we do not over use this valuable technology to offset the hard to decarbonise sectors such as aviation and heavy industry. Ultimately our ability to combat climate change hinges on being able to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, and this is an issue that crosses all sectors of the economy. At the moment, production of every-day products from plastics to foodstuffs is highly dependent on fossil fuel resources, and over the next 30 years we will also need to completely shift our economy to one based on natural resources.”

 

Prof Euan Nisbet, Professor of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, said:

“Hydrogen is indeed an excellent vector of energy, and making so-called ‘green’ hydrogen is a superb way to store excess wind power generated offshore during winter nights. But how it is best used needs much thought. It’s going to be very important to choose the right path. One much-discussed option is to mix it into the domestic gas supply. That will likely work well, but is it the wisest use?

“Decarbonising heating is urgent. It’s a high priority, especially as Britain’s gas imports soar. But distributed in pipes to houses, or to domestic cars, hydrogen is leaky. Also, it can damage the gas pipes. If leaked in large quantities in a global hydrogen economy, it’s an indirect greenhouse gas, affecting air pollution and possibly damaging stratospheric ozone.

“As alternatives to using hydrogen, there are many electric options and it may be better to use those and repurpose gas pipes for broadband or power. At present there hasn’t been much work on what would be the best choice.

“An obvious use for ‘green’ (clean) hydrogen made by renewable electricity is as an energy store, a ‘battery’. We can make hydrogen with surplus electricity on windy nights, and turn it back to electricity on cold dull windless winter days. Another use of hydrogen is to make ammonia, which is easily liquefied and (if leaks are carefully prevented) is a good fuel for large engines in big ships or on trains where the lines haven’t yet been electrified.

“Steel-making from coal is a major CO2 emitter worldwide.  Hydrogen-made steel avoids this. If hydrogen becomes cheap enough, this is an environmentally very attractive use. Britain invented the modern steel industry. With green taxes against high-CO2 imports, ‘green’ hydrogen steel can bring new life to UK ‘rust belt’ former steel towns.

“Hydrogen will be a key part of the ‘Net Zero’ economy. But we need to be very careful. We’ve already made the ‘diesel’ mistake, despite strong scientific warning. The rush to hydrogen needs to be wise. We can use it in many ways but we need to be  very careful to pick the right path forwards.”

 

Prof Ian Fells, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“The affirmation that nuclear power is ‘clean energy’ and the development of a new generation of small advanced nuclear reactors demonstrates the realisation that new nuclear will play a huge part in moving to net zero carbon.”

 

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 Mutch, 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 Reay: “is a member of the UK Government’s Green Jobs Taskforce.”

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.

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