At a time when global superpowers are threatening to default on the commitments they’ve made to a greener future, this 165-page document is reassuring in its recognition that climate action and a successful industrial economy can, and will, exist alongside one another. As it implicitly acknowledges, there is no such thing as a long-term, high-carbon economic plan.
This, arguably, is the bedrock to the success of green policies. The report recommends that the best possible conditions for the private sector to invest will cultivate a groundswell in green innovation, and this is the best chance the UK has for meeting its legally binding carbon targets for 2030 and beyond.
Some £2.5 billion will be targeted at supporting low-carbon innovation and the deployment of renewable energy over the next decade. The Government’s focus on providing the finance needed to address the challenges in delivering clean growth is welcome and there are some sensible developments in the plan. For example, the wind resource on the Scottish Islands is best in class and allowing Scottish island projects to qualify in Contracts for Difference (CfD) allocation is a step in the right direction. That will have tangible impacts for local communities who can take the future of their energy provision into their own hands.
But there are still some serious gaps in the Government’s approach. You can’t keep on investing at the levels we’re currently seeing in nuclear and fossil fuels and expect clean growth. Cost effective renewable solutions exist but are still blocked to market.
At a time when the UK is at risk of missing its climate budget targets, and green initiatives are threatened worldwide, unflinching action is essential. We are still missing the key actions which will actually deliver energy efficiency measures in the short to medium term. The financing sector alone cannot deliver this without strong policies and incentives to make the cost of the measures simply more affordable and attractive to home owners to get their buy in. This is a key gap that must be addressed and the government can shape many of the tools that will get us there, such as stamp duty incentives or reduced VAT on energy efficiency measures.
This means altering systems and opportunities for consumers. Greater transparency and simplicity in the energy sector would equip the public with the tools they need to make an informed decision about the impact they want to have on the environment. As in banking, we believe a fair, sustainable, and accessible energy sector is crucial.
While gaps in the report need addressing – and the disconnect between the language of the report and real, effective policy needs to be bridged – there are nevertheless invigorating glimpses of how the landscape may shift in the coming decades. Policy makers must seize the tone of the report and recognise the importance of the here and now in establishing the environmental security of the future.