“Bold action on electric transport, easily the biggest pro-climate action from a UK government since hastening the end of coal power, will make huge ripples overseas,” said Jonathan Marshall at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, a UK-based non-profit, in a statement.
However, in a concession to car makers, the government won’t ban the sale of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – which can typically travel for tens of kilometres on battery power before switching to a conventional engine – until 2035. Such cars have been found to emit two-and-a-half times more carbon dioxide in real life than in lab tests.
Johnson also gave his backing to nuclear power, but stopped short of confirming funding for a new nuclear plant at Sizewell in Suffolk proposed by French state-owned firm EDF Energy. The plan did allocate £525 million for nuclear reactors, chiefly those much smaller than today’s, which a consortium led by Rolls-Royce has been lobbying for support to build.
In a statement, the UK government said the 10-point climate plan would create 250,000 jobs and tied the measures to Johnson’s election promise to “level up” neglected regions of the UK. The new policies come just weeks ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12 December. Three days earlier, on 9 December, the government’s climate advisers will issue a new carbon emissions target for the mid-2030s.
Other highlights of Johnson’s plan include moves to dramatically increase production of low-carbon hydrogen, which is seen as a key way to decarbonise heavy industry and other sectors. He set a goal of having 5 gigawatts of electrolyser capacity for making hydrogen by 2030, which compares with an EU-wide target of 40GW by the same date. There are also suggestions of a UK “hydrogen town” for 2025, supplying tens of thousands of homes with the fuel for heating and cooking.
Another new target calls for the installation of 600,000 heat pumps – an electrified, green alternative to gas boilers – in homes and public buildings each year by 2028. Efforts to clean up heavy industry received a boost too, with an extra £200m for carbon capture and storage.
“My 10-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050,” said Johnson in a statement. John Gummer, of the Committee on Climate Change which advises the government, said: “I am delighted to see the breadth of the prime minister’s commitment.”
Other points included a repeat of a previous announcement to quadruple offshore wind power capacity by 2040 and a retread of the UK Conservative party’s tree-planting pledge. The plan also includes broad support for more walking and cycling, work to green planes and ships and research on innovation and financing.
Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary, said in a statement that only some of the funding in the plan is new, and argued it “falls well short of what is required”. The plan’s full details are due to be published on 18 November.