‘Half-baked, half-hearted’: critics ridicule UK’s long-awaited climate strategy
The UK’s new energy plan unveiled on Thursday is a missed opportunity full of “half-baked, half-hearted” policies that do not go far enough to power Britain’s climate goals, according to green business groups and academics.
The 1,000-page strategy has been criticised by many within Britain’s green sectors who fear the country could surrender its leading role in climate action because of the government’s “business as usual” approach to delivering green investments.
Environmental groups said the plans – which are expected to form the basis of the government’s revised strategy to meet its net zero ambitions– also risk falling short of meeting legally binding climate targets, which could trigger further court action.
Grant Shapps, the energy and net zero secretary, announced the wide-ranging strategy, which includes support for carbon capture projects, nuclear energy, offshore windfarms, electric vehicles, home heat pumps and hydrogen power.
However, most of the plans are based on existing government commitments and lack new funding.
Josh Burke, a senior policy fellow at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, said the lack of a long-term, economy-wide investment plan “undermines investor confidence and prevents the UK from leading the green race”.
Joe Biden announced a $370bn green plan for the US last autumn to lower energy costs while accelerating private investment in clean energy solutions as part of his Inflation Reduction Act. Concerns have been raised that the huge subsidies in the plan could lure the UK’s key green industries across the Atlantic.
“Instead of grasping this historic moment the government has been left trailing behind the Inflation Reduction Act and is currently failing to capitalise on the opportunities a green transition will provide. Companies are making investment decisions now and in six months’ time the UK will be even further behind,” Burke said.
He argued that while the government was right to prioritise investment, the focus should be on technologies such as onshore wind that will reduce emissions in the short term and ensure energy security.
Ana Musat, an executive director at RenewableUK, which represents onshore wind developers, said the plans did “not go far enough to attract the investment we need in the renewable energy sector” amid “global competition for investment in renewable energy projects [which] is fiercer than ever”.
“We need much more than a ‘business as usual’ approach to kickstart investment on the level we need to boost energy security, cut consumer bills and reach net zero,” Musat said. “Without that, we won’t land the UK-wide economic benefits of building up new clean energy supply chains, as they will go elsewhere where the investment environment is more conducive and attractive.”
Ministers are also expected by the end of the week to publish a revised plan to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, after a successful legal challenge by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project against the original plan.
Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, said the groups lawyers were poised to act if the revised plan fell short. He warned that the government should be scaling up and accelerating the race to net zero, but the latest plans looked “half-baked, half-hearted and dangerously lacking ambition”.
“These announcements will do little to boost energy security, lower bills or put us on track to meet climate goals,” he said.
Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, said: “At the moment the government announcement is more of the same, lacks insight to the energy issues and invests money in dead-end technology such as hydrogen.
“Yet again the UK government has missed the opportunity to radically change the UK energy production and market. This is the time that innovative business-led initiatives are needed.”