The UK government on Tuesday unveiled its roadmap to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, putting new funds behind electric vehicles, sustainable aviation fuel and forests as carbon sinks, while boosting the role of nuclear in its energy transition.
The Net Zero Strategy comes less than two weeks before the UK government hosts the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to commit dozens more leaders to make net zero pledges and a global commitment on slowing global warming.
The UK government said the long-awaited strategy will bring in £90 billion ($124bn) of private funding and create nearly half a million new jobs by 2030.
But the plan does not intend to end the country’s use of fossil fuels, and critics are casting doubt over its scope.
Johnson touted his plan as a roadmap towards a greener future while insisting the move will not infringe on Britons’ lifestyles. The plan focuses on following markets to transform heating in homes, for example, rather than mandating and end to the use of gas-fires boilers, which contribute to climate change.
“For years, going green was inextricably bound up with a sense that we have to sacrifice the things we love,” he said in a forward to the report. “But this strategy shows how we can build back greener, without so much as a hair shirt in sight.”
He added: “In 2050, we will still be driving cars, flying planes and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric gliding silently around our cities, our planes will be zero emission allowing us to fly guilt-free, and our homes will be heated by cheap reliable power drawn from the winds of the North Sea.”
Funding pledges included a combined £970 million towards the transition to electric vehicles and related infrastructure; £3.9 billion towards decarbonizing heat and buildings; and £120 million to building small nuclear reactors at a still-to-be-determined site.
But experts cast doubt on aspects of the plan.
“One thing that this strategy is weak on is the aviation industry. The ambition is very low,” Dan Lunt, a professor of Climate Science at the University of Bristol, told the Science Media Centre. The plan intends that 10% of commercial aviation fuel would be sustainable by 2030.
“The Net Zero Strategy is an important additional step in the right direction,” Jim Watson, Research Director at the UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources, added.
“But it isn’t enough, of course. Funding for low carbon heating is modest, and there is too little focus on how buildings will be made more efficient.”
Activists were also underwhelmed, with Greenpeace UK criticizing the plan’s “half-hearted policies.” And Ed Miliband, the Labour Party’s shadow business secretary, said there was “a chasm between the grand promises and the appalling weakness in delivery.”
But Johnson urged other countries to meet Britain’s commitments.
“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,” he said Tuesday.
The UK is hoping to extract a swath of new climate promises from global leaders at the upcoming summit, which has been billed by experts as a generational opportunity for humans to correct course on climate change.
But less than two weeks out, there is unclear information form organizers over who exactly is attending and whether consensus can be reached on key issues, including strengthening commitments to keep global warming contained to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialization temperatures, put an end date on the use of coal and for rich countries to honor a pledge to transfer $100 billion in climate funds annually to the Global South.