Boris plan includes these 10 aims
- A ban on combustion engine sales by 2030, with grants for electric cars, and funding for charge points. The sale of some hybrid cars and vans will continue until 2035.
- A previously announced pledge to quadruple offshore wind power by 2030, to 40GW, enough to power every UK home.
- Moves to boost hydrogen production, with the promise of a town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
- Investment of £525m towards new nuclear power, based on “the next generation of small and advanced reactors”.
- £1bn next year for funds to insulate homes and public buildings, using the existing green homes grant and public sector decarbonisation scheme.
- An extra £200m invested in carbon capture initiatives.
- Support for greener energies in the aviation and maritime sectors, with £20m committed to the latter.
- 30,000 hectares of trees planted every year, as part of nature conservation efforts.
- Moves to promote public transport, cycling and walking, although no new schemes were announced.
- A pledge to make London “the global center of green finance”.
While some of these are useful, and will cause a drop in carbon emissions, there are lots of people who feel it doesn’t go far or fast enough.
There is a significant overlap, between Boris Johnsons plan, and the targets put forwards by guardian, though the guardian targets are more detailed. Having said that, there is significant overlap.
- The first item on the guardian list, is essentially number 2 on the Boris Johnson. However the Guardian suggests we go further. Boris Johnson suggests a quadruple of the amount of solar and offshore wind, to power all homes by 2030, and while this is a good move, it is not anywhere enough. The guardian suggests instead a monumental effort to increase this off sea power by 20 times- there are many sources of energy that we currently use that must be replaced by electricity. Items such as cars and lorries must go fully electric- something that will take huge amounts of power from the grid. If we are to move away from heating with gas, we will also need large amounts of electricity to power heat sinks and other zero carbon heat sources.
- Batteries and Hydrogen: this is essentially to cope with the huge amount of excess energy that the above will create. By using these methods to store the power, many other forms of emmisions could be dealt with, for instance aviation- a switch to hydrogen is likely less of a jump than to battery electric. Likewise ferries and other large moving vehicles
- Utilities: this one doesnt seem to be covered by Boris Johnson. Essentially, the guardian argues that in order to make utilities head for 100% clean, and work for the uk, we need to take them back into public ownership, and stop saving giving extra profits to owners on mainland Europe. This change would allow each area to run things cleanly and to advantage their own citizens
- Efficiency: much of our current electricity, and other forms of energy are lost due to highly inefficient systems. For instance, an electric car is far more efficient than a fossil fuel car, and therefore needs much less energy to run. In the same way, we can hugely cut the demands for heating buildings, if they are all ultra efficient, and do not leak heat. This if done sensibly can also greatly benefit poorer people, as they will have to pay less to heat their home.
- Motoring: this one is essentially number one from Boris Johnsons plan. It is encouraging that this is high on his list. electric cars are often more than 3 times as efficient, making them far more preferable. Even in the short term, it is possible to do carbon capture on a power plant, though not on a car, so even with coal powered electric cars, they are likely to be far less polluting than their fossil fuel alternatives.
- Farming: Boris Does not mention this one, about a third of emissions could be eliminated by using electric vehicles, and as these are longer lasting, and far cheaper to run it is likely to happen automatically. Unfortunately, the other 2/3 comes from livestock. Now there are various techniques being used to reduce methane emissions, and indeed there are some things that can be added to their diet that can reduce this dramatically, however it will never have a carbon footprint as low as vegetables. There is much work being done on vegetable based meats, that can in some cases by hard to distinguish. There is also people looking at growing meat in a lab, another approach that could greatly reduce carbon emissions, assuming price can get down to parity quickly. Given the large emissions attributed to this, it is a shame that Boris Johnson does not engage on this topic.
- Reforestation: This one is included in Boris Johnsons plans and indeed his plans will go a good distance to absorbing a great deal of our emissions. Furthermore, it is likely to give many other benefits, from improving air quality, to large numbers of jobs in areas currently suffering unemployment rates that are too high. Provided the wood is then used for building, and not burning, this can also bring in good money.
- Flying and shiping: Boris Johnsons point 3 does deal with this, but not directly. Shipping should be able to go electric in almost all circumstances, not least by covering large areas in solar, they could largely run on the sun. Flying, will need hydrogen, as while short haul may eventually be able to run on batteries, this is unlikely to be able to power transatlantic flight (unless there is a dramatic leap forwards in battery tech, way beyond the already rapid improvements.
- Lastly the guardian suggests that there needs to be a significant carbon tax. How this is handled is not gone into, many have suggested that such a tax could be net zero, so that those successfully reducing carbon could have financial incentives. However it is run, if we have to pay for the carbon we emit, it forces everyone to look to reduce their emissions as far as is possible.
I think that it is reasonable to say, that while it is good to see the British government putting out aims, we are beyond the time where this will suffice. Many of Boris Johnson’s aims are simply not challenging enough. Added to this is the fact that many of his processes will take decades to have an impact.
There is a large realization that we need to change how we operate, and to create less carbon. The government needs to support this and stop getting in the way. Their absurd way of operating, has meant that they have given solar a number of blows that risk killing it off. What the government needs to do, is to create a cross party plan for carbon reduction over the next 30-50 years, get every party to agree to it (including experts outside politics) so that climate change mitigation stops being a football that comes out every time that we have an election coming up. Anyone who cannot sign up to this sensible process, essential for our future, should be incapable of being elected.