The prime minister’s plan covers 10 themes: offshore wind power; hydrogen; nuclear power; electric vehicles; public transport, cycling and walking; shipping and aviation; improving the energy efficiency of buildings; carbon capture: nature conservation; and innovation and finance.
Here is a cross-section of comments that we have received.
Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE):
“This 10-point plan is recognition that in order to meet society’s Net Zero aspirations, we need tangible action. We can only ‘build back better’ from Covid-19 if our growth is cleaner and greener.
“Proposals to turn London into a green financial centre are both welcome and necessary to supporting Net Zero ambitions, but giving local government the resilience and confidence to make carbon free investments is arguably more important.
“The positive announcements on carbon capture/storage, hydrogen, nuclear, and offshore wind are areas we championed in our comprehensive spending review representation. However, doing all this in parallel, and at the same time as decarbonising our existing building stock, remains a huge challenge and we need to see the rapid implementation of these plans.”
Adam Strudwick, principal at architect Perkins&Will:
“While the government’s plans for a green industrial revolution are welcome, if we want to reach the goal of being net-zero by 2050, the UK must also ensure there is a green interior revolution in the spaces where we all work, live and shop. The built environment is responsible for 40% of UK carbon emissions; clearly, that needs to change.
“Alongside delivering net-zero new homes and buildings, updating the insides of existing offices, shops and hotels will be just as vital to reaching the UK’s 2050 net-zero targets.
“It also provides a valuable opportunity for the government to educate industries on the definition of ‘net-zero’; encouraging a focus on both Operational and Embodied carbon will be vital. The government should recognise that innovative design can play a fundamental role in significantly reducing a building’s environmental footprint and creating places that are truly energy efficient from cradle to grave.
“Having committed to net-zero architecture last year and recently pledging an industry-leading net-zero interiors plan, we welcome the government’s £1 billion investment into making existing homes and public buildings more efficient. However, there needs to be an incentive for large multinational firms and tech companies, who are buying the bulk of existing real estate stock, to retrofit buildings from the inside out”
Kate Neale, sustainability director at Cadogan, a property management business in west London:
“We welcome the government’s announcement that it will invest £1bn into making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient, including the bid to bring forward the date by which new homes will need to be warmed without gas heating to 2023. The last few months have brought into sharp relief the importance of tackling the climate emergency, and Cadogan is more focused than ever on actively reducing our environmental footprint, and collaborating with our partners across both the Chelsea community and our supply chain, to find innovative ways to progress the circular economy and make rapid advances in meeting net-zero ambitions. We believe that the built environment has an essential role to play in achieving carbon neutrality, and this must be recognised and supported in any new government policies.”
Mathew Riley, UK managing director of consulting engineer Ramboll:
“It is excellent to see climate action remains on Boris Johnson’s agenda and that his Government appreciate the need for green principles to form a central pillar in the UK’s economic recovery. However, if we are to become a global leader in achieving net zero and taking effective action on the climate crisis then rapid implementation of this plan must be a priority – time is absolutely of the essence.
“The UK originally set one of the most ambitious targets for net zero but to remain global leaders in climate action we need to move further and faster. While a welcome move, the government’s 10-point plan comes worryingly close to the wire.
“It is understandable that both the pandemic and Brexit have dominated this year, but now is the time to put climate action back at the top of the agenda, with detailed planning and implementation timelines that reflect its critical status for society. We need clear targets and bold statements for every sector.
“Crucial to rapid implementation will be a clear and detailed policy framework that enables both public and private sector to plan their own strategies. We must move past declarations of intent and really get down to the detail if we hope to address climate challenge at the scale and speed needed.
“Rapid social and behavioural change is crucial in preventing a climate crisis. It is ultimately policy that changes behaviour, and so the government must deliver definitive policy commitments to drive the cultural changes needed to meet zero carbon goals and develop a more sustainable society. Boris and his government need to put on a united front and show real leadership in uniting the public and private sector and providing the correct environment for change to be delivered.
“For example, road user charges may not be popular but in the long term could have a highly significant impact in reducing UK vehicle emissions. The government must look beyond the next election cycle in their decision making and make decisions based on what is best for people and the planet in the long term.
“Missing from the government’s proposals is how they plan to mitigate the impact of our built environment – currently it contributes up to 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint and so reducing this should be crucial. The £1bn pledged for the green homes initiative is a start but to make any meaningful impact we need action right across the built environment – this narrow focus simply isn’t enough. Industry collaboration here is key; the construction sector is poised to contribute but the government must lead this interaction and utilise existing knowledge and networks to help the sector innovate, change practices and deliver the change needed.”
“Effective and sufficient investment is equally as critical as policy and promised – otherwise such announcements are purely paying lip service to the environment crisis. At present, all 10-points are purely decarbonisation policies, when the UK also needs to build in climate resilience planning to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.”
“We must also make the route to green financing much clearer in both the private and public sector – these pledges will be hard to implement if we can’t actually follow the money.”
“Offshore wind investment also looms large and illustrates the policy point – we need marine strategy in place, which ensures we avoid the unintended negative impacts on biodiversity by rushing ahead on offshore wind.”
Chris Richards, director of policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers:
“The commitments outlined in the government’s 10-point plan for tackling climate change are a step in the right direction for the UK meeting its ambitious net-zero emissions target by 2050.
“In particular, bringing forward the point at which the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles will be phased out to 2030 is welcome. Yet, with electric vehicles currently exempt from paying VED and the diminishing impact that this will have on fuel duty revenues, there is a need to think carefully about how road upgrades and maintenance will be funded over the long-term.
“Moreover, today’s announcements do not spell out what the government’s overall plans are for joining-up efforts across departments to tackle climate change. A net-zero infrastructure plan that draws together policy and investment interventions in doing this is urgently required if the UK is to meet its commitments. We expect this to be detailed in the National Infrastructure Strategy and Energy White Paper when they are both published next week.”
Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA):
“The UK government’s commitment to boosting the economy and delivering the UK’s net zero carbon future is to be welcomed. This investment will not only help to level up the economy but will create high-skilled jobs across the UK. In particular, we are pleased that this plan recognises that the UK needs a mixed portfolio of energy generation, with projected investment in both wind energy and in large and small-scale new nuclear reactors.
“We hope this is the beginning of the uplift in investment the UK will need as we transition towards a net zero carbon future, and look forward to working with government at all levels to help deliver the green jobs and industries of the future.”
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman of modular housing company Ilke Homes:
“I welcome Boris Johnson doubling down on the government’s pledges to make Britain a carbon-neutral economy. But, the time for rhetoric is over and concrete action must now be taken to focus on building zero-carbon homes now to avoid costly retrofitting programmes in the future that taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for. The government’s Green Homes grant, which is set to be extended, is already investing £2bn of taxpayers money this year, yet the dithering and delay over new-build standards is going to cost the taxpayer 30-times more.
“According to our analysis, over 1.8 million new-build homes will have been built by 2025 since 2016 – the year in which the government’s original zero-carbon policy was meant to be introduced. As the economy gears up to meet its legally-binding net-zero pledges, nearly all of these homes will have to be retrofitted to meet zero-carbon standards. Using costs from the gvernment’s climate advisers, that’s going to cost homeowners and landlords in excess of £62bn.
“The government will soon have to make a decision on the Future Homes Standard consultation. Policymakers must stick to their guns and introduce the tightest possible energy standards: at least a 31pc reduction in carbon emissions from new-build housing next year and a net-zero Future Homes Standard as soon as possible. Without this we will simply not see change occur quickly enough. And picking the higher, 31% reduction target will show the world the UK means business ahead of the UN Sustainability Conference, COP26, in Glasgow next year, and will put the property industry on a trajectory to deliver truly energy-efficient homes.
“The government must now focus on scaling-up low-carbon technologies, such as air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and solar panels, and give its full backing to offsite manufacturing. At Ilke Homes, we’re deploying digital technology to help us measure and shape our homes’ energy performance. ASHPs and solar panels can also come as standard, which allow our homes to be powered with low-carbon energy. These technologies also mean our homes can be heated on just £1-a-day, saving consumers hundreds of pounds on energy bills a year. Over the last three years, we’ve delivered zero-carbon homes for clients spanning across the public and private sectors, proving that low-carbon technology can already be rolled out to the mass market.”