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Starters For Ten: UK Gov’t Climate Change Plan


Today, the government released its ‘ten point’ Climate Change Plan that outlines how the UK will get to our net-zero emissions target by 2050 (see the summary at the end of this article). It’s encouraging to see some detail, although it reads more like a technology wish list than a plan to address a climate emergency. The funding pledged is paltry compared to the investment needed, especially when the sums are spread over the entire population and over many years. Consider them, instead, as down payments on our green economic recovery.

In order for the country not to be ‘lagging on lagging’ (in the Prime Minister’s words), the UK government will need to follow up with an ambitious pledge to cut emission levels more drastically by 2030 – giving impetus behind a really bold green economic stimulus. What is encouraging from the ten-point list is that it does signal a shift in the government’s thinking from ‘green = cost’ to ‘green = jobs’. However, people are losing their jobs right now as a result of the pandemic. Why would we not be in a hurry to implement these changes and create new green jobs that can protect people’s livelihoods and help accelerate our move towards becoming more resilient?

We can debate the merits of the technologies outlined: the importance of building grid-level storage to manage the increase in renewable energy sources; the balance between carbon sequestration initiatives and simply planting many more trees; etc. But technology alone cannot cut emissions and restore nature. If we want to build back better, we need to reinvent how we behave – the way we travel, how we heat our homes, what we eat, how much we consume, how we support each other in our communities. And these fundamental shifts in behaviour that will reduce our overall emissions to net-zero will not be the result of national edicts.

It would be a visionary national government that recognises we need to prioritise the local and that distributive leadership is the path to net-zero. Over half of all the principal councils in the UK have set a target of becoming net-zero by 2030: herein lies the ambition locally to move faster. A national climate change plan that does not share the funding and resources for local authorities and regional governments to deliver on their respective climate emergency plans will be underpowered and will not level up the exciting opportunities of building a regenerative economy.

The 10-point Climate Change Plan comprises:

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

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