As the Morrison government continues to grabble with itself over the future of Australia’s climate and energy policies, UK Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson has had no issue landing his plan to reach net zero by 2050, and a zero carbon grid by 2035.
Johnson’s plan, unveiled overnight, includes a target to stimulate up to £90 billion (A$166 billion) of private investment in new green ventures by the end of the decade and is forecast to create as many as 440,000 new jobs in emerging green industries.
The Johnson government will directly invest £26 billion (A$48 billion) in support of a its new ‘Ten Point Plan’ to respond to climate change and expand the UK’s offshore wind and low emissions hydrogen industries and support the further adoption of electric vehicles and other green transport options.
The decarbonisation of the electricity grid will be led by more than 40GW of offshore wind, supported by a revised plan to replace ageing nuclear generators. A much delayed new facility at Sizewell will be unveiled, without Chinese involvement by 2024, while the UK is also teaming up with Bill Gates and his pursuit of small nuclear reactors. But it does not expect these SMRs to be contributing much, if anything, before 2035.
In Australia, the federal government is ignoring any calls to decarbonise the grid, pushing instead for a “gas led recovery”, even though the market operator is putting together a roadmap to phase out fossil fuels by 2035, and major transmission group Transgrid says 91 per cent renewables is possible by 2030.
Johnson’s plan also includes an extra £1 billion (A$1.85 billion) commitment to deliver financial incentives for the adoption of electric vehicles, with an additional £620 million (A$1,144 million) to fund new EV charging infrastructure, and money to encourage more cycling and walking.
See our story on our EV-fosused sister site, The Driven: Not a hair shirt in sight: Johnson throws another $2 billion at rapid EV transition.
A further £3.9 billion (A$7.2 billion) will also be provided to decarbonise energy use in buildings, including energy-efficient and electric heating and cooling systems.
The plan also commits additional funding for environmental restoration and the research and development of new low emissions technologies.
In addition to putting the UK on a path to achieving its zero net emissions target – as well as delivering on targets to cut emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 and 78 per cent by 2035 – Johnson said that his plan would provide a massive opportunity for new job creation across the UK.
Johnson said that the United Kingdom’s strategy for meeting its commitment to zero net emissions was an opportunity to boost prosperity rather than being viewed as a cost to the economy.
“The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries – powering our green industrial revolution across the country,” Johnson said.
“By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way.”
“With the major climate summit COP26 just around the corner, our strategy sets the example for other countries to build back greener too as we lead the charge towards global net zero,” Johnson added.
Johnson, who leads a Conservative Government in the United Kingdom, has sought to position Britain as a leader amongst industrialised countries in tackling climate change before hosting the COP26 climate talks in less than a fortnight’s time.
Johnson’s plan stands in stark contrast with the Morrison government in Australia, which not only has not been able to deliver a similarly detailed plan for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 but there are genuine doubts around whether Morrison will even secure a commitment to a 2050 target before the COP26 talks.
Nationals MPs have yet to reach an agreement on a climate policy proposal pitched by federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor – with some steadfast in their refusal to support a zero emissions target over concerns that it would be detrimental to jobs in Australia’s coal and gas industries.
But Taylor’s British counterpart, UK energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, made clear that greater economic opportunities would be available to those countries proactive in their responses to climate change.
“There is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment,” Kwarteng said.
“The countries that capture the benefits of this global green industrial revolution will enjoy unrivalled growth and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK is fighting fit.”
“Today’s plan will not only unlock billions of pounds of investment to boost the UK’s competitive advantage in green technologies, but will create thousands of jobs in new, future-proof industries – clearly demonstrating that going green and economic growth go hand in hand.”
Australia’s status as a climate laggard has not gone unnoticed in the United Kingdom. Both the Queen and Prince Charles expressed dissatisfaction with Australia’s reluctance to respond to mounting calls to announce more ambitious climate policies.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson also labelled Australia as an “outlier” during an event held overnight with former UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon
“I’m sorry to say that I think Australia is an outlier at the moment, in the scale of its ambition, and I say that as I know cities and states of the federal system in Australia are trying to step up, and civil society is trying to step up,” Robinson said.
“It’s at the federal level that the problem is.”