Take me to that other place: the new Clean Growth Strategy at a glance

Will the government's new Clean Growth Strategy meet the legally binding targets on emissions reduction?

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“See the world in green and blue”, command the lyrics to U2’s Beautiful Day. As does the government’s long-delayed Clean Growth Strategy, announced this Thursday.

The strategy sets out how the government plans to meet its ongoing commitment to the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act - under which the UK must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

But can the present government (successor to David Cameron’s anti “green crap” administration) ensure that these commitments are kept past 2023 and beyond?

It was a beautiful day…

To date, the UK has stuck within its carbon budget. According to the strategy’s executive summary, emissions have fallen by 42 per cent since 1990, while the economy has grown by two thirds.

And now Theresa May will “put clean growth at the centre of our modern industrial strategy”, says the strategy foreword.

This is to be achieved via investment for offshore wind developers, improved energy efficiency for houses, and funding for research into Carbon Capture Storage technologies – among other initiatives. There’s even the prospect of support for new solar power and onshore wind.

Don’t let it get away

Such thinking is a “sea change” from the George Osborne era, says Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit director, Richard Black.

Yet details on a commitment to carbon pricing will have to wait for the Autumn budget, there is no decision on funding for a pilot Tidal Lagoon, and fracking, which received a hefty mention in the Conservative’s 2017 election manifesto, is nowhere to be seen in the strategy document.

Policy specifics are also few and far between, as many in the green business and campaign communities have pointed out. “Delivering a strategy requires action and there is a lack of detail on how these ambitions will be delivered,” says Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association.

You’ve been all over…

Without a deal set on Brexit, much of the strategy is “next to worthless” anyway, say Green MEPs.

Plus if many of the above plans sound familiar, that’s because prior incarnations have already come and gone – after being slashed by earlier Conservative and coalition governments. 

… and it’s been all over you

This is especially troubling in light of the fact the UK is not presently on track to meet its 4th or 5th carbon budget targets. And has already missed its EU targets on renewable energy.

“The UK is on course to miss its 2023-2027 emissions reductions targets by 116MtCO2e - equivalent to more than the Philippines’ emissions in a whole year - and the Clean Growth Strategy does not fix this," says ClientEarth lawyer Jonathan Church.  While according to analysis by CarbonBrief, the new strategy's quantified impacts only add up to a 51 percent emissions reduction - well below the 4th carbon budget's 57 percent target.

The independent Committee on Climate Change, which is responsible for advising the government on its Climate Act responsibilities, has also raised concerns.“We note that the Clean Growth Strategy suggests that ‘flexibilities’ in the Climate Change Act could be used to meet the carbon budgets in place of domestic action. This should not be the plan,” it says.

Take me to that other place…

Perhaps most pointedly of all is the strategy’s contrast with the Scottish government’s announcement earlier this week that it will be launching a new, publicly-owned energy firm.

For all that the new Clean Growth Strategy celebrates the UK’s new leadership in offshore wind deployment, there was little on how the industry’s future profits might be harnessed via direct UK ownership (public or private). According to a report from Labour Energy Forum, over 90 per cent of the UK’s offshore wind is presently owned by non-UK entities.

… I know I’m not a hopeless case

At least for those looking for further detail on policy, or reassurance on targets, an intra-ministerial group will be re-instated to help keep the strategy on track. 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.