WHEN IT COMES The UK Government lacks ambition and self-esteem to tackle climate change. In 2019, we enacted a law that promises to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.Medium-sized countries, which account for 1% of the world’s emissions, occupy other parts of the world United Nations Climate change conference to be held in Glasgow next month. But is Britain serious about keeping its own promises? The surge in government plans announced this week suggests that this is not the case.
The Net Zero strategy has many bold goals, but it is often tricky. By 2035, the UK will be fully green-powered “provided that the supply is safe.” By the same year, all new home heating systems installed should be efficient electric heat pumps or hydrogen boilers, as long as the cost of such is reduced to a reasonable level. Tree planting speed is more than doubled.
Wisely, the government recognizes that there are many ways to reduce emissions to net zero. The UK has the potential to rapidly transition from fossil fuels to electricity provided by wind turbines and new nuclear power plants. Alternatively, you can rely on hydrogen to capture the carbon released when it is produced from natural gas. The government has invested in many technologies, such as hydrogen production, small nuclear reactors, and equipment to extract carbon from the air, and expects some to work cheaply.
“It’s more detailed and ambitious than what’s found elsewhere in the world,” says Chris Stark, CEO of the Climate Change Commission, an official watchman. Inevitably, some government sectors (such as business and transportation) have bolder and more detailed plans than others (such as agriculture). But it is useful to know which one is behind. Encouragingly, most political critics of the plan argued that the government should do more and not less.
Still, reaching or approaching Net Zero is so difficult that the UK must do everything right. And there are two weak connections in the chain that connects dreams and achievements. Unfortunately, these are the two most powerful institutions in the government.
The first is the Ministry of Finance. That’s true, but the problem isn’t so much that it may have provided more money to speed up the green transition. For example, a £ 450m ($ 620m) grant for heat pumps could cover only 30,000 facilities annually. The bigger problem is that Jill Rutter, a former finance minister currently working at the institute for government in the UK, a think tank, calls the tax department a “fully owned ownership approach.”
The Treasury believes that the job is to collect money from the general public, distribute it to other departments, and spend it on their projects (often unwise but afraid). It does not consider taxes as a means to help the department achieve its goals. Therefore, the transportation sector must attempt to decarbonize roads by subsidizing electric vehicles and banning the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. A more obvious (and economically efficient) route to tax higher fuels is out of the question.
The second weakness is Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This week he shilled for his government’s green plan with a typical jackpot.He cheerfully mistakenly quoted Gordon Gekko from the movie “Wall Street” and compared it to Moses to the reader. Sun The “Boiler Police Green Shirt” is a newspaper that “kicking the door with your feet in sandals” will not seize the gas-fired device.
Political salesmanship and cheers are good. Johnson’s problem is that he can’t stand to give the bad news. The government’s Net Zero strategy contains soothing words about dealing with consumer-choice grains. As the Prime Minister says, it’s not a “visible hair shirt.” But in order for Britain to reach Net Zero, many noses have to be disjointed.
Especially the nose that belongs to those who depend on voting for Mr Johnson. Older people emit more carbon dioxide than younger people, mainly because they tend to live alone or with one other person. Their consumption patterns will have to change. Still, the conservative government relies on older voters (see graph). Troublesome geographic patterns exacerbate the problem. Installing a heat pump costs about 7% of the average net housing property in Midland and northern England. Here, the Conservatives won many new votes in the 2019 general election, but less than 3% in London, where the party abandoned.
Johnson may be more daring.Poll economist Ipsos Woods Not only are 83% of British people concerned about climate change, but 51% say that the cost of tackling climate change will outweigh the savings, such as reducing heating costs and cheaper gasoline, within a year. I think it will be. Only 9% think the savings will outweigh the costs. People expect the trade-offs to be more favorable in 10 years. The British seem to be ready for their hair shirt. They just don’t want to wear them forever.■■
This article was published in the UK section of the print version under the heading “Jolly Green Giant”
Britain has an ambitious climate change plan and has two problems
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