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Climate change

Key Outcomes of COP26

COP26 logoAfter a delay for a pandemic; a huge amount of build-up; and two weeks of negotiation; COP26 is finally over. But what were the key outcomes?

All 197 participating countries have signed up to the so-called ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’. But there was a last-minute intervention by India on the ‘phasing down’ of coal; which left the President of the summit, Alok Sharma, in tears.

During Alok Sharma’s closing speech, he said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for how the negotiations had ended. So was the whole thing an unmitigated disaster?

If you want a really simple guide to what happened at COP26, then this blog’s for you!

We’ll look at what the purpose of the Glasgow climate change summit was; and whether or not we’re still “keeping 1.5°C alive”.

What is COP26?

The UK hosted COP26 in Glasgow on 31 October – 13 November 2021. ‘COP’ stands for Conference of the Parties.

The Parties are made up of the 196 countries and the EU. The parties signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994. 

The COP meets every year unless the Parties decide otherwise. The purpose of these conferences is to allow governments to work together in taking action on climate change.

The first COP meeting was held in Berlin in 1995. This year marks the 26th meeting of the Parties, hence the name COP26. It’s the first time that the UK has hosted a COP.

What happens at a COP?

During a COP summit, the Parties are brought together to set climate change targets. These targets aim to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Attended by world leaders; negotiators; government representatives; businesses and citizens; governments are asked to submit long-term goals to address the climate emergency.

Key targets include reaching global net-zero, protecting vulnerable communities and habitats, and securing investment and funding for climate financing.

What is the Paris Agreement and what does it have to do with COP26?

If you’ve heard anything about COP26 on the news; you’re bound to have heard about ‘The Paris Agreement’.

But what is it, and what does it have to do with COP26?

The Paris Agreement was signed by the Parties at COP21 in 2015. It was a groundbreaking moment because for the first time; it saw almost every country in the world enter a legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

The agreement was that every country would cut emissions to reduce global warming to below 2 degrees; and ideally to 1.5 degrees. This is why there’s lots of talk in the media about the ‘battle to keep 1.5C alive’.

Why does limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees matter?

Boris JohnsonUnfortunately, Earth is now in a period of rapid climate change. Global temperatures are rising because of human activities, such as the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The world is about 1.2°C warmer than before the Industrial Revolution.

Although 1.2°C doesn’t sound like much, climate change is already causing fires, floods, storms, and hurricanes around the world. Natural disasters cost the world a total of $150 billion last year.

If global temperatures continue to rise to 2°C, there would be catastrophic results. People across the world would be exposed to severe heat; coral reefs would be destroyed; ice sheets would melt; sea levels would rise; and there would be more frequent extreme weather events.

If our global temperature rise can be limited to 1.5°C, the impacts would be serious, but less severe.

Are we on track to limiting a temperature rise to 1.5°C?

Although all the Parties signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015; the commitments laid down up to now, haven’t come close to achieving the 1.5°C target.

In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its Sixth Assessment Report. The report warns that we will not be able to limit global warming to even 2°C unless there are immediate; rapid; and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions… hence the significance of COP26.

At the end of COP26 Alok Sharma said that 1.5°C is ‘still within reach’ but that ‘its pulse is weak’.

What were the goals of COP26?

There were four main goals of COP26:

Goal 1: Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5°C within reach.

The first goal was for countries to provide ambitious emissions reductions targets; that will enable them to reach net zero by 2050.

Net Zero doesn’t mean that countries must produce zero emissions. It means that any emissions that can’t be avoided must be matched by removing the equivalent from the atmosphere.

To achieve net zero by 2050, countries will need to make commitments to phase out coal; encourage investment in renewables; curtail deforestation; and speed up the switch to electric vehicles.

Goal 2: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Unfortunately, climate change has already had a devastating impact on many countries around the world. For this reason, the second goal of COP26 was for countries to work together to help repair and minimise future damage.

Work needs to be done protecting and restoring ecosystems; building defences; putting warning systems in place; and making infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and lives.

Goal 3: Mobilise finance

To achieve the first two goals; developed countries must raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year.

Goal 4: Work together to deliver the Paris Agreement

The final goal was to finalise the so-called ‘Paris Rulebook’. This will be needed to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

What were the key outcomes from COP26?

So, did COP26 achieve its goals?

We’ve massively simplified the negotiations, to bring you the key outcomes from the summit:

COP 26 Outcome: The Glasgow Climate Pact

COP26 concluded with all countries agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’. They also agreed to finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.

As part of the Glasgow Climate Pact; countries will meet next year (in Egypt) to “revisit and strengthen” their emissions pledges. Unfortunately, the current pledges will only limit global warming to about 2.4°C and that’s only if they’re fulfilled.

This isn’t close to enough. So countries such as China; Australia; Saudia Arabia; and the US; will be under pressure to produce more ambitious plans by the end of next year.

COP26 outcome on emissions – Coal and fossil fuels

The Glasgow Climate Pact calls on countries to ‘phase down’ the use of unabated coal. And ‘phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. 

The wording over the approach to coal caused much controversy, and this is what prompted the teary-eyed apology from Mr. Sharma.

The original wording in the Glasgow Climate Pact was that coal would be ‘phased-out’. But India insisted it be changed to ‘phased-down’, despite protests from other developing countries.

Mr. Sharma said he was sorry for “the way the process has unfolded”. He said that people would be “deeply disappointed” that the stronger language had been watered down.

But watered-down or not; this is the first time that fossil fuels have been specifically targeted in a UN climate agreement. And so many still consider it a significant step forward.

Ahead of COP26, Boris Johnson published his ‘10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’. He had already indicated a focus on ‘Greener Buildings’ and a ‘gradual move away’ from gas boilers; to reduce emissions caused by heating.

Check out our related blogs on hydrogen boilers and heat pumps for possible alternatives t fossil fuels.

COP26 outcome on methane

Although we usually focus on carbon dioxide emissions when we’re talking about reducing global warming; methane is responsible for about a third of it.

So, it’s a positive step forward that the US and the EU announced a partnership. They agreed to cut emissions of methane by 2030.

The Global Methane Pledge aims to limit methane emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels.

COP26 outome on emissions reporting and transparency

Another key achievement of COP26 was the agreement to make emissions reporting more transparent. The Parties agreed to submit climate plans to a common five-year timeframe and follow a standardised reporting practice from 2024. This will make it easier to hold Parties accountable for their progress towards achieving the climate goals.

COP 26 outcome on green transport

Road transport accounts for 10% of global emissions, and its emissions are rising faster than those of any other sector.

This is why the UK Government announced (before COP26); that it will end new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030. And new petrol and diesel heavy goods vehicle (HGV) sales by 2040.

More than 100 national governments; cities; states; and major car companies; signed the Glasgow Declaration. The declaration wants to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets, and by 2040 worldwide.  At least 13 nations also committed to end the sale of fossil fuel powered heavy duty vehicles by 2040.

COP26 outcome on climate finance

There was much discussion about the fact that rich countries had failed in their previous pledge on climate finance. They failed to mobilise $100bn a year in climate finance by 2020.

The Glasgow Climate pact notes that this failure is a “deep regret”. It commits nations to deliver on this every year through to 2025.

It remains to be seen whether this promise, and many others, will be kept this time.

COP26 outcome on adaptation funding

Under the Glasgow Climate Pact richer countries promised to double the funding available for adaptation by 2025.

Adaptation funding is financing to help poorer countries to cope with the extreme weather caused by climate change. This includes funding for new sea defences and better early warning systems.

The European Commission announced a new pledge of €100 million in finance for the Adaptation Fund. This is by far the biggest pledge to the fund made by donors at COP26.

COP26 outcome on loss and damage

Unfortunately, not all harm caused by global warming can be adapted or mitigated against.  Many poorer nations have suffered significant damage because of the greenhouse gas emissions of richer nations. These vulnerable countries have been calling for compensation for years.

There was discussion of setting up a “Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility”. This would provide financial support for vulnerable countries, but it wasn’t adopted. Instead, there will be a “Glasgow Dialogue” to discuss funding arrangements over the coming years.

Unfortunately, talks of further talks; are the sort of inaction that has provoked criticism from young protesters such as Greta Thunberg. She dismissed COP26 as just more “blah, blah, blah”.

COP26 outcome on carbon trading – Article 6

After six years of debate, COP26 finally laid down rules for a new carbon market – the so-called ‘Article 6’ rules. Carbon trading is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it enables investment in emissions-reductions technologies.

The article 6 rules set out a framework for the trading of carbon credits. They represent a tonne of carbon that has been reduced or removed from the atmosphere.

Countries can use carbon trading to help reach their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This can help them to meet their 2030 emissions reduction obligations under the Paris Agreement.

But there are concerns that this new system will give countries and companies an excuse to continue polluting.

COP26 outcome on reversing deforestation

A really encouraging announcement was that leaders from over 120 countries; representing about 90 per cent of the world’s forests; pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Brazil was among the signatories. This is promising as large parts of the Amazon have already been cut down.

The pledge to end deforestation includes almost £14bn ($19.2bn) of public and private funds. Hopefully this pledge will be more successful than the previous agreement in 2014 which failed to slow deforestation at all.

COP26 outcome on climate cooperation

Many were very pleasantly surprised by the United States and China’s pledge to boost climate cooperation over the next decade. In a joint declaration, they said they had agreed to take steps on a range of issues; including methane emissions; transition to clean energy; and decarbonization. They also reiterated their commitment to keep the 1.5C goal alive.

So, was COP26 a success?

COP26 has in no way solved the current climate crisis, but it would be unreasonable to think that it could. It’s going to take a lot more than one summit!

But the amount of media attention; and the whole tone of the negotiations; seems to mark a changing of attitudes towards climate change. A recognition that we need to do more, and soon. 

Alt attribute: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at COP26.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed these sentiments in saying that COP26 is not enough:

“Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade; specifically, a 45-per cent cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. But the present set of Nationally Determined Contributions; even if fully implemented; will still increase emissions this decade on a pathway that will clearly lead us to well above 2 degrees by the end of the century; compared to pre-industrial levels.”

He went on to say that the planet was “hanging by a thread”. “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.”

Alok Sharma said:

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But its pulse is weak; and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action. I am grateful to the UNFCCC for working with us to deliver a successful COP26.”

So, COP26 has started the conversation, but there is much to do ahead of COP27.

Useful links:

The Guardian: Video of Alok Sharma’s COP26 closing speech

United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change

IPCC Report on Climate Change

EU website: EU at COP26

National World: Global temperatures explained for COP26

The Independent article: Greta Thunberg on COP26

UN glossary of climate change terms

Carbon Brief: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Glasgow

Offshore Energy: Article on ‘weak and compromised’ COP26

Categories
Climate change

The truth about ‘The boiler ban’

If you’ve heard scary stories about a ‘boiler ban’; and are feeling confused about the future of gas boilers; don’t worry; you’re not alone! It seems the Government are too!

From the proposed gas boiler ‘ban’ in 2023; which then changed to 2025; to the more recent back-tracking on that until 2040; the news has been full of conflicting messages about the future of heating.

So, if you’re looking for a new boiler, but are worrying about what to buy; we’re here to reassure you.

Don’t worry, your current gas boiler; or any gas boiler you may buy today; won’t be banned and evicted from your home!

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the future of gas boilers.

What are the government saying about a ‘boiler ban’?

The attention grabbing headlines have caused some alarm and confusion. So much so, that Worcester Bosch has created a short informative video on the supposed ‘boiler ban’.

We’ve linked to this video (‘The Future of Home Heating’) at the end of this blog. It aims to reassure customers of the facts behind the headlines.

The first place we will see more sustainable changes to heating, will be in new build houses.

When you see talk of gas boiler ‘bans’; this refers to plans to potentially ban all new homes from installing gas and oil boilers in 2025 or 2040!

So, unless you buy a new build from 2025, the ban will not impact you.

In this blog we explain why the changes to heating are coming; and what this means for buying boilers today.

The Heating People are ready and committed to ensuring a smooth transition to a greener future.

Why is there talk about banning gas boilers in the future?

Unfortunately, Earth is now in a period of rapid climate change. Global temperatures are rising because of human activities, such as the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The world is about 1.2C warmer than before the Industrial Revolution.

Whilst 1.2C may not sound like a lot; it is in terms of the detrimental effect it is already having on the natural world.

We are already seeing extreme temperatures; flooding and fires occurring around the world; which are increasing in frequency as temperatures continue to rise.

In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its Sixth Assessment Report.

The report warns that we will not be able to limit global warming to even 2°C; unless there are immediate; rapid; and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s clear that changing our behaviour is crucial to controlling climate change.

The Committee for Climate Change (CCC) estimates that 62% of the actions required; will involve some element of societal or behavioural change.

These will include changes to the way we heat our homes and power our vehicles.

What has the government announced?

The IPCC released the worrying Sixth Assessment Report shortly before COP26; which Glasow is hosting in November 2021.

This will be the latest Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

During the COP26 summit, world leaders are discussing whether enough has been achieved since 2015’s landmark Paris climate agreement.

In 2015 in Paris, the government committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, by signing the Paris Agreement.

This made the UK the first major economy in the world to legislate for a Net Zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In order to try to achieve this ambitious national priority, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson established ‘Task Force Net Zero’. In November 2020, the government published ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ .

What is ‘Net Zero?’

The Institute for Government explains that Net Zero means: “achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.”

In other words, for greenhouse gas emissions that can’t be avoided; we must match by removing the equivalent from the atmosphere.

 

 

What is the 10 Point Plan for a Green Revolution?

In November 2020, Boris Johnson published ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’. This sets out the government’s plan for achieving net zero by 2050.

The plan outlines ten priorities for £12bn worth of investment in clean energy, transport and energy efficiency:

  1. Advancing offshore wind;
  2. Driving the growth of low carbon Hydrogen;
  3. Delivering new and advanced nuclear power;
  4. Accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles;
  5. Green public transport, cycling and walking;
  6. Jet zero and Green ships;
  7. Greener buildings;
  8. Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage;
  9. Protecting our natural environment;
  10. Green Finance and innovation.

The 10-point plan and the ‘boiler ban’

Boris JohnsonWhilst the media has coined the phrase ‘gas boiler ban’; it’s important to understand what has been said by the government.

 Point 7 of the plan is the bit that relates to heating. It focuses on ‘Greener Buildings’ and a ‘gradual move away’ from gas boilers to lower carbon, more efficient alternatives.

The plan reads that the Future Homes Standard; which will ultimately ban fossil fuel boilers in new homes; will be introduced “in the shortest possible timeline.”

Interestingly; a key commitment to ban gas boilers in new homes from 2023; was deleted from the Government’s plan shortly after it was released.

A Downing Street spokesperson told the BBC there had been a “mix-up”. He said that no fixed date is attached to the plan but that:

“We’ve consulted on introducing this by 2025 and will set out further details in due course.”

The CBI’s report on decarbonising heat; states that the government should mandate that after 2025; all new boiler installations must be part of a hybrid system or be ‘hydrogen-ready’.

By 2035 no new natural gas boilers should be installed; and only air source or ground source heat pumps or hydrogen powered boilers should be installed. Clearly this won’t impact your current gas boiler.

What is the proposed alternative to gas boilers?

A heat pump installation by The Heating PeopleIf gas boilers were entirely phased out, they would likely be replaced with ground-source and air-source heat pumps. This currently poses a problem because heat pumps are currently more expensive than gas boilers.

Another option would be using hydrogen-fired boilers, which are currently largely unavailable to the domestic market.

As a proposed alternative to gas boilers; point 7 of the plan includes a target to install 600,000 heat pumps a year in British homes by 2028.

However, the figure allocated for this, £9.2bn is nowhere near what the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said is required.

According to the CCC; 1.5 million heat pumps would need to be installed every year by 2030; to meet the country’s net zero emissions commitment by 2050.

Has the government backtracked on its ban on gas boilers?

Worcester Bosch boiler and heat pump.Since the plan was published; Boris Johnson has indicated that the UK’s ban on gas boilers could be pushed back to 2040; due to backlash over the cost of replacing them.

Ministers are reportedly concerned that changing heating in 23 million homes would cost another £400billion. This is on top of the enormous sums already accrued during the Covid pandemic.

By delaying the gas boiler ban until 2040; it seems that the Prime Minister is stalling for more time. The hope being that the cost of heat pumps will fall; and more hydrogen boilers will be ready to be brought to market.

Nonetheless, environmental campaigners such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) will be very worried about these rumoured delays.

The IEA has said that if the world is to achieve net zero by 2050; a global ban on fossil fuel boilers needs to be introduced by 2025.

What are boiler manufacturers doing to get ready for the changes?

Although talk of ‘gas boiler bans’ sounds scary; it’s not actually the big panic that the media would have you believe.

As with your phone; vacuum cleaner; or any other appliance you have in your home; the technology is always evolving and improving.

As we understand more about the technology we use and its impact on the environment; we make improvements to how it runs.

The gas boilers we use today are so much more efficient than in the past.

The Boiler Plus Regulations require that new combi boilers are A rated for efficiency and are at least 92% efficient; compared to older G rated boilers, which have an efficiency of 70% or less.

We now use smart controls; weather compensation; load compensation; flue gas heat recovery systems; and a whole host of other energy saving devices alongside our boilers . So becoming ‘greener’ is far from a new idea to the heating industry.

Manufacturers such as Worcester Bosch; Vaillant; and ATAG have been pioneering the development of new technologies when it comes to heating our homes.

You might like our related blog: How to choose an energy efficient boiler.

What are boiler manufacturers already doing?

 Here are just a few examples of what our favourite manufacturers are already doing:

Boilers with improved energy efficiency

An ATAG boiler with a 14 year guarantee badge.We’ve already mentioned that all gas boilers are much much more efficient than they used to be. And this is in part due to the Boiler Plus Regulations.

And manufacturers continue to develop nifty ways of further improving the efficiency of their boilers; by building in what used to be an energy efficiency ‘add-on’.

For example, inside ATAG’s Economiser Plus range of boilers there is a Passive Flue Gas Heat Recovery (PFGHR) device.

It works by harnessing the residual heat left in the boiler after hot water has been heated.

Rather than allowing this energy from the flue gasses to be released as waste; the PFGHR essentially recycles them, resulting in lower gas consumption, and lower emissions.

Boiler manufacturers are striving to become climate neutral

Vaillant are setting their own ambitious goals and targets to become climate-neutral. As a company they aim to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. This equates to reducing around 60,000 tonnes per year in 2018 to less than 30,000 tonnes by 2030.

They plan to do this by switching to electric vehicles; using renewable energies on their production sites; and offsetting through afforestation.

Hydrogen ready boilers are being produced

Worcester Bosch welcomes recent communications by the UK Government; on increasing the amount of “Green Gases”; such as bio-methane and hydrogen to the UK gas grid.

Their gas boilers already have the capability to run on a 20% hydrogen blend.

Mark Wilkins, Technologies and Training Director at Vaillant says:

“We fully support hydrogen as a heating solution and are developing hydrogen-ready appliances ahead of the Government’s strategic decision on the role of hydrogen for home heating to be taken by 2026.”

Boiler manufacturers are involved with eco-friendly housing projects

Vaillant is supplying 239 of its low carbon heat pumps to a new eco-housing development in Swindon. Homes will be ready in 2022.

In addition to the heat pumps, Nationwide Building Society has also committed to ensuring each property achieves an EPC-A rating.

To achieve this target; the properties on the development will also benefit from the installation of other sustainable technologies, such as solar PV.

Houses will be wired to allow residences to add their own electric car charging points and batteries to store energy.

Boiler manufacturers are also producing heat pumps

Inside an aroTHERM heat pump.Heat pumps are widely used in Scandinavia and many parts of Europe; where there is an abundance of renewably sourced electricity.

They use electricity to take energy from outside; and transfer it into heat to be circulated around a heating and hot water system.

In June 2021, Vaillant announced expansion of its UK Manufacturing Facility to Produce it’s aroTHERM plus Heat Pumps.

The aroTHERM plus and aroTHERM split heat pumps offer an ErP rating of A+++ and A++ respectively. Based in Belper, Derbyshire, Vaillant Industrial UK will begin manufacturing heat pumps; alongside its UK range of high efficiency boilers from 2022.

So it’s clear that whenever changes to the heating industry arrive, our manufacturers won’t leave us out in the cold. They’ll have our new solutions ready and waiting to be installed!

In summary…

So, what we know is that the proposed changes to the law; prevents gas boilers from being installed in new homes from 2025 at the earliest.

It will not ban the gas boilers that are already in existing properties.

But it does mean that in the future; we’re likely to see a combination of both heat pumps and hydrogen boilers in homes to tackle climate change.

Rest assured that whenever the transition comes; The Heating People will be here to help find you the most appropriate installation for your needs; just as we are today.

Useful Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jPB1tWpYD0

https://www.energylivenews.com/2021/07/27/boris-johnson-reportedly-considers-pushing-gas-boiler-ban-back-to-2040/

https://ukcop26.org/

https://www.ipcc.ch/

Categories
Climate change

What is Boris taking to COP26?

COP26 logoWith COP26 taking place in Glasgow next month, this could be the world’s last chance to avert a climate catastrophe.

Luckily, we’re sending Boris Johnson, problem-solver extraordinaire, to save the day.

This is a man who has openly said; that he doesn’t believe humans have had any part to play in climate change. So this begs the question of what he’s taking to COP26!

In this blog, we look at Boris’ answer to tackling climate change; his report, the ‘10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.’

If you’re curious about what he’ll be taking to the international table, read on…

How it all started

Assuming you know what climate change is; (or more than the PM anyway); let’s just jump into what the UK’s been doing to address it…

In 2008, the UK passed the Climate Change Act; committing to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions relative to 1990 levels.

But things have been getting a bit hairy. And Greta’s been on the case…

So, in 2015, the UK (led by Theresa May) signed the Paris Agreement; which committing us to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This made the UK the first major economy in the world to legislate for a Net Zero by 2050.

What is ‘Net Zero’?

Despite the somewhat misleading name, ‘net zero’ doesn’t mean that we must have zero emissions. This would be impossible with the way we live and work today.

The Institute for Government explains that net zero means:

“achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.”

In other words; unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions, need to be matched by removing the equivalent from the atmosphere.

Was Boris on board with the Paris Agreement?

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson inherited the task of achieving Net Zero from Theresa May.

So, did he share in the vision?

In a word, no.

Boris was denying the existence of climate change altogether when the Paris agreement was being signed in 2015.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, he says:

“global leaders are driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation”.

He’s since tried to pretend that his comments were twenty years ago, and they were just ‘obiter dicta’. I’ve got other words for them.

Anyway, let’s hope he understands the science a bit better now. Climate change isn’t a primitive fear, and humans are responsible.

Whether he understands that or not, is anyone’s guess. But his so-called ‘green revolution’ is certainly a full 360 from his previous remarks.

Is he the best man to be leading any sort of climate revolution?! Time will tell…

What is the 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution?

The government released ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ in November 2020. Its purpose is to provide a plan of how we’ll achieve our ambitious national priority of net zero by 2050.

Boris and his ‘Task Force Zero’; have set aside a total of £12 billion in government investment for the job.

The 10-point plan outlines how the investment will be spent. So lets take a closer look…

1.    Advancing Offshore Wind

Wind has its uses, and not just for drying your washing!

Offshore wind already powers the equivalent of 4.5 million homes every year. And generates over 10% of the UK’s electricity; according to RenewableUK.

And we should be using it more. Not least because the cost has fallen by 50% since 2015. Wind power is one of the lowest cost options for new power in the UK.

The capacity of the UK’s offshore turbines has grown from 1GW to almost 10GW between 2010 and 2020. But the government’s plan is to quadruple this to 40GW by 2030!

The Global Wind Energy Council are dubious about how realistic this is, describing the target as “ambitious”. Aurora Energy Research goes further by pointing out the two flaws in this plan.

Firstly, we’d have to install one turbine every weekday during the whole of the 2020s, which we’re currently not doing. And secondly, we would need £50bn in capital investment, rather than the £160m allocated in the plan.

And if private investment were to be an option; we need to massively improve the speed at which we issue seabed licences. A concern raised by the Chief Executive of Scottish Power, Keith Anderson.

2.    Driving the Growth of Low Carbon Hydrogen

The symbol for hydrogen.So, what about Hydrogen then? There’s certainly been talk of it in the news.

Hydrogen can provide us with electricity. And if blended with natural gas, it could help to decarbonize existing natural gas grids.

The CCC has described hydrogen as a “credible” option for reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions if used “selectively”.

Boris says he wants to work with industry to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. 

But what he means by ‘low carbon’ hydrogen isn’t totally clear. He could be referring to blue hydrogen, which is made from natural gas; or green hydrogen; which is made from water.

Green hydrogen is the only zero carbon option. Using blue hydrogen would still allow companies like Shell and BP to sell high-carbon natural gas.

Up to £500m has been allocated for developing hydrogen, some of which includes trials in homes.

Hydrogen test facilities

National Grid is partnering with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) in a £10 million project with Fluxys Belgium. They’re building a pioneering offline hydrogen test facility in Cumbria.

We’re only starting the trial stage though. And achieving the goal of generating 5GW of hydrogen power by 2030 poses a huge challenge.

Households would need to replace 25 million gas boilers over the next 20 years; at a rate of 600,000 a year by 2028.

And whilst some manufacturers are selling their boilers as ‘hydrogen ready’, this is slightly misleading, because they all are!

The CCC doesn’t think it’s prudent to rely solely on hydrogen to replace gas anyway.

They estimate that this would only provide emissions savings of 60-85% relative to gas use in boilers. And even with large-scale rollout of hydrogen from gas; the UK could still fall short of net zero.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC warns that simply converting the current gas grid to hydrogen; would also double the amount of gas imports in 2050 compared to today.

A key recommendation of the CCC is to roll-out “hybrid heat pump” systems. This is where Hydrogen boilers provide backup for electric heat pumps.

Analysts such as Futurebuild and National Grid emphasize that the energy efficiency of homes; buildings; and businesses; needs to be massively improved before net zero is possible.

So, it seems that hydrogen is just one piece of a much bigger picture.

3.    Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power

Surprised to see nuclear power mentioned in a document advocating a green revolution? You’re not alone!

Nuclear power doesn’t produce any immediate carbon emissions, so some view it as a ‘clean’ form of power.

EDF energy are currently building the Hinkley C nuclear power plant. They emphasize that nuclear power is important, when there is limited wind and sun to feed wind turbines and solar panels.

Boris is considering the building of both traditional large scale power plants and small “next generation” advanced modular reactors; which he said could support 10,000 jobs. Work is already starting on this.

Hinckley Point C

The UK’s new Hinkley Point C reactor could cost over £25 billion by the time it’s finished. Greenpeace describe it as “the most expensive object on Earth”.

The government is also looking for a 100-plus hectare site for a prototype nuclear fusion power plant, called the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).

The fusion reactor would reproduce the way the sun makes energy, by fusing hydrogen together to make helium.

This advancement of nuclear power isn’t popular with everyone though. It’s hard to think about nuclear power without the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters coming to mind.

Where there are no accidents, nuclear power generates huge quantities of waste which needs to be disposed of safely. 

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) issued a statement condemning the planned expansion of nuclear power.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: “There is no clean nuclear. Whatever the size, nuclear power stations are dirty, dangerous, and expensive. We need to decarbonise as fast as possible. But the best way to do that is through huge investment in renewables.”

Greenpeace echo these sentiments, saying that the huge sums of money that nuclear power plants cost to build; would be better invested in “truly clean” energy; such as wind power.

4.    Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles

You can’t have missed this one!

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of media attention on the banning of the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.

 The government has brought forward the ban, which had originally been planned for 2040.

Although electric cars have grown in popularity, the figures are still low. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show; says that electric cars still only make up around 7% of new vehicles bought in the UK. And currently, electricity powers fewer than 1% of cars on UK roads.

The government’s plan forecasts that the ban will help to cut car emissions; from 68 m to 48 m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.

Problems with the scheme

Whilst this is an improvement; the figure is still almost 40% higher than the target set by the CCC; to cut car emissions to 32.8 m tonnes by 2030.

Ben Nelmes, the head of policy at New Automotive; says that the ban still leaves 21m polluting vehicles on the road by the end of the decade. 

A further potential problem is the funding allocated for the scheme. The government plan allocates £1.3 billion for new car charging infrastructure and £582 million in grants for buying electric cars.

This seems like a small sum. Particularly when you consider that in March 2020; Rishi Sunak announced a £27bn programme of road building; including a fund of £500m just for filling potholes!

Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, says the plan is ‘optimistic’. And pointed out that only about 6% of local authorities have installed on-street charging facilities in residential areas.

The CCC stresses the need for a ‘modal shift’; including increasing the use of public transport; as well as cycling and walking.

5.    Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking

As well as electric cars, the government wants to encourage greener public transport, cycling and walking.

Boris just says the aim is to make cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel. And there will be investment in zero-emission public transport ‘in the future’. How it wants to do this is unclear.

There’s clearly a long way to go with this. In 2018, cycling made up just 1% of the mileage accumulated by all road traffic; while cars and taxis together accounted for 77%.

This is pretty shameful when you look at the Dutch. In Amsterdam, in 2017, 68% of traffic to and from work or school was by bike.

Sustrans, custodians of the National Cycle Network; welcome the plan but warn that the government needs to build on the £2bn promised for walking and cycling.

Again, the £2bn allocated to walking and cycling initiatives seems very low; when compared to the £27bn investment in road building over the next five years.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the National Union of Rail; Maritime; and Transport Workers; was critical of the plan, calling it “disappointing” and lacking in detail.

He believes we should be focusing on the rail industry.

6.    Jet Zero and Green Ships

A whopping 2% of global greenhouse gases come from air travel, and emissions have risen by 70% since 2005.

The International Civil Aviation Organization says we need to prevent emissions from increasing by 300% by 2050.

To drive down this figure; Boris has made a play on the words ‘net zero’ with his ambition to achieve ‘jet zero’. This is a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025.

Many experts dismiss the plan as a gimmick.

Short-range electric flight is already possible (after using traditional fuel to get airborne). However, Gwyn Topham at The Guardian remarked:

“But as far as the technology goes, Johnson might have more luck building a garden bridge to France than getting British-made, long-haul, zero-emission passenger planes in service before 2050.”

The aviation industry says that long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever.

By which time emissions should already have been cut to zero, so more efficient planes; carbon offsets; new taxes; and green jet fuels would be a better option.

Behavioural change is clearly key here. Greta Thunberg criticised the irony of people traveling by private jets to discuss climate change.

7.    Greener Buildings

85% of UK homes are heated with natural gas, which has a substantial carbon footprint.

Heating is responsible for around 30% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As a proposed solution to this; the plan includes a target to install 600,000 heat pumps a year in British homes by 2028. However, the figure allocated for this, £9.2bn is nowhere near what the CCC has said is required.

According to the CCC, we need to be installing .5 million heat pumps every year by 2030; to meet the country’s net zero emissions commitment by 2050.

The plan also extends the Green Homes Grant and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme for another year; and seeks to implement the Future Home Standard as soon as possible.

More on this later, when we look at how the government’s plan might specifically impact heating in the future.

8.    Investing in Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2); before releasing it into the atmosphere.

The technology can capture up to 90% of CO2 released by burning fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes such as cement production.

In the UK, a £1 billion competition to develop CCS was dropped in 2015.

In September 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA); said that without rapid investment in CCS around the world it will be “virtually impossible” to hit net zero in 2050.

The plan puts CCS back on the agenda. And not only that, states that the goal is for the UK to become a ‘world-leader’ in carbon capture. The target is to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030.

The IEA says we need to increase capacity tenfold by 2025; to be on track for meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement.

The Global CCS Institute estimates that 2,500 CCS facilities would need to be in operation by 2040 worldwide. Each would need to capture around 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

9.    Protecting Our Natural Environment

The Woodland Trust describes trees as the “world’s ultimate carbon capture and storage machines”. Though photosynthesis, they absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries.

The Trust highlights that although woods are our allies in the fight against climate change. However, trees only cover 13% of the UK (compared with an EU average of 37%).

The UK’s forests absorb about 10 million tonnes of CO2 a year. But the hope is to more than double that.

The plan aims to protect and restore the environment by planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year.

The CCC says this means planting between 90 to 120m trees per year; to increase the UK’s total forest cover from 13% to at least 17% of the country’s total area.

They forecast that this; alongside improved woodland management; would remove around 14 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.

Liz Boivin, who runs Tomorrow’s Forests is concerned about staffing to support the government’s plans for a huge increase in planting.

Stuart Goodall, who runs Confor; says that there will also need to be a far greater supply of saplings. But British nurseries are wary of scaling up until they’re sure the government is serious about the numbers.

10.  Green Finance and Innovation

The International Monetary Fund (IMF); explains that the financial sector has an important role to play in fighting climate change. Institutional investors can help with rebalancing and redistributing climate related risks and maintaining financial stability.

The plan looks at activities the financial sector could facilitate; including making the City of London the global centre of “green finance”.

Green finance is any structured financial activity that ensures a better environmental outcome. It can help firms concerned about their green credentials decarbonise their investment portfolios.

The government’s plan is to issue the UK’s first Sovereign Green Bond in 2021.  Green bonds allocate proceeds to environmental projects. These bonds will help finance sustainable projects, finance much-needed infrastructure investment and create green jobs across the country.

In November, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the introduction of more robust environmental disclosure standards.

The UK will become the first country in the world; to make Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD); fully mandatory across the economy by 2025. This goes beyond the ‘comply or explain’ approach.

How does the plan specifically relate to the future of heating? – Point 7: Greener Buildings

A woman pointing to the symbol for carbon.Point 7 of the 10-point plan focuses on making buildings ‘greener’. According to the CCC, energy use in homes accounts for about 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

These emissions need to fall by at least 24% by 2030 from 1990 levels. But in 2017, the annual temperature-adjusted emissions from buildings actually rose by around 1%.

Currently, just 1m of the UK’s 27m homes have low-carbon heat.

The plan aims to make buildings more energy efficient in the following ways:

·       Gradual move away from fossil fuel boilers over the next fifteen years

A key commitment to ban gas boilers in new homes from 2023; was deleted from the Government’s plan, shortly after it was released.

The 2023 date was two years earlier than previously indicated by the government. Instead, the amended plan now talks about a ‘gradual move away’ from gas boilers to lower carbon, more efficient alternatives.

The plan now reads that the Future Homes Standard; which will ultimately ban fossil fuel boilers in new homes; will be introduced “in the shortest possible timeline”.

The CBI’s report says that from 2025, all new boiler installations must be part of a hybrid system or be ‘hydrogen-ready’.

The future of home heating

Inside an aroTHERM heat pump.By 2035 no new natural gas boilers should be installed; and only air source or ground source heat pumps; or hydrogen powered boilers; should be installed.

The Home Builders Federation says that the change towards heat pumps and hydrogen boilers poses ‘enormous challenges’ for developers; suppliers; and energy firms; in terms of skills; design; and infrastructure.

Professor Martin Freer at the University of Birmingham, says that changing the beahviours of over 20m homes will be a huge challenge. It can’t just be changed at a systems level.

The plan has also been criticised by focusing solely on new build houses, rather than our existing housing stock.

This is largely due to cost. The CCC’s report says it would cost £26,300 to install low-carbon heating in an existing house. To install it in a new home, on the other hand, would only cost £4,800.

Greenpeace believes that it’s more important to focus on improving the energy efficiency of our ”shoddy” housing stock; rather than focusing on houses-to-be.

·       Aim to install 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028

An engineer installing a heat pump.As part of the plan, Boris promises to install 600,000 heat pumps every year until 2028. And we all know he keeps his promises.

Heat pumps reduce carbon emissions by taking heat from outside (from the air or ground) to warm buildings.

When the Future Homes Standard comes into force in 2023 or 2025; new houses will not be able to have gas boilers installed; and will need heat pumps instead.

There are also plans for people who replace their existing gas boilers with a heat pump; to receive financial incentives; under the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the green homes grant.

This commitment is a bold ambition; given that last year of the 1.6m boilers installed in the UK; only about 25,000 were heat pumps and the rest were traditional gas units.

Even if reaching 600, 000 heat pumps is possible; the CCC says that it won’t be enough. 1.5 million heat pumps need to be installed every year by 2030; to meet the net zero target by 2050.

Critics of the plan highlight that heat pumps are up to four times more expensive than conventional boilers. This poses a huge challenge to hitting the government target.

Advocates of hydrogen argue that the zero-carbon gas can be delivered through the existing gas grid; without the need to install expensive heat pumps.

●     Extending the Green Homes Grant and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme for another year

A total of £1bn will be spent next year by extending The Green Homes Grant and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Under the Green Homes Grant Scheme; homeowners and landlords can apply for vouchers of up to £5,000. These go towards the cost of installing energy efficient and low-carbon heating improvements in their homes.

When it first launched there was a tight six-month deadline to get any work done. But it has now been extended until 31 March 2022.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme provides grants to public bodies to carry out energy efficiency projects in non-residential dwellings.

Whether the government can keep up with the demand is another matter. Bloomberg says that so far; only 267 grants have been handed out; and a backlog has built up.

●     Seek to implement the Future Home Standard as soon as possible

The plan states that to ‘future-proof new buildings and avoid the need for costly retrofit’; the Future Home Standard in the shortest possible timeline.

The Future Homes Standard requires all new build homes to be fitted with low carbon heating; and ‘world leading’ levels of energy efficiency.

An average home built to this new standard; would have 75-80% less carbon emissions; than one built to current energy efficiency requirements under Approved Document L 2013.

This is achievable through very high fabric standards and a low carbon heating system. A new home built to the Future Homes Standard might have a heat pump; triple glazing; and standards for walls; floors; and roofs; that significantly limit any heat loss.

The HBF established The Future Homes Task Force, to develop a roadmap for delivery of the Future Homes Standard.

Last year the HBF’s director of external affairs, John Slaughter; described meeting the new target as “a challenge and a huge area of work” for the industry.

Problems with the scheme

Many environmental groups such as GreenPeace, have criticised the proposals. They argue that they would not produce sufficiently radical reductions of carbon emissions.

The Mayor of London and the UK Green Building Council; argued strongly against revisions to the law which would strip councils of the power to set their own; higher; energy efficiency standards.

BRE Group is concerned that the government’s proposals risk falling short of their objectives. Because: “they are likely to encourage a culture of design for compliance rather than performance.”  

The CCC said that the plans ‘do not go far enough to reduce carbon emissions’. And will result in homes that will need retrofitting before 2050 to meet the UK’ net-zero carbon goal.

Architects Declare says the government’s plans are ‘a step backwards just when we need to make a huge leap forward.’

How has the 10-point plan been received?

We all understand the importance of tackling climate change, so the government’s plan has been welcomed in principle. However, the first problem is that it reads more as a wish list, rather than a clear plan of action.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, condemned the plan as vague and underpowered. She said:

“This is a shopping list. Not a plan to address the climate emergency. And it commits only a fraction of the necessary resources.”

Future build commented:

“The plan must be accompanied by detail. At the moment; it is a list; and heavy on ribbon-cutting and grand-sounding measures. It must be translated into the nitty-gritty throughout the policy and financial framework; otherwise it risks being poorly implemented; lacking credibility; and being ineffective alongside inconsistent policies.”

Sharing the same sentiments, Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) stated:

“This is really just setting the tone and setting the scene. The prime minister of a big economy standing up and saying we’re going to get to net zero and this is an outline of how were going to do it. And then obviously there’s a lot more work to do in terms of how it’ll happen; and how to make it fair.”

Has enough money been allocated?

The second problem with the plan is that the allocated funding sounds pretty pitiful for the momentous task at hand.

The CCC says that tackling carbon emissions from heating alone could cost up to £500bn; making the £4bn commitment seem insufficient for any sort of ‘revolution’ to occur.

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry,described the allocated funds as “beyond inadequate”. Particularly compared to the government’s £27bn road building program.

Simon Roach, from Channel 4 Factcheck, highlights that of the £12 billion announced for the green revolution; just £3 billion is new money.

The rest is recycled from manifesto pledges and announcements made earlier this year.

Just the day after the announcement of £12bn in funding for the green revolution was announced; £16 billion of new money was pledged for the defence budget.

Shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change; Ed Miliband said:

“The funding in the government’s long-awaited 10-point plan doesn’t remotely meet the scale of what’s needed … it pales in comparison to the tens of billions committed by France and Germany”.

Final thoughts?

Governments have been making promises and issuing stark warnings on climate change since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. But have failed to take decisive action.

The eye-catching and headline-grabbing announcements in the 10-point plan have certainly got the conversation going. And send a strong political signal; but real change needs more than rhetoric and a lot more investment than has been allocated so far.

It seems for the moment at least; this roadmap won’t do enough to meet the government’s carbon targets. More is needed for a credible decarbonisation strategy ahead of COP26.

Useful Links:

The Government’s ’10-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936567/10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf

Foreword from the Prime Minister on the 10-point plan:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution/title

The government’s consultation paper on the future homes standard:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

Science News article on Boris Johnson’s change of stance on climate change:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/07/boris-johnson-s-stance-climate-change-has-flip-flopped

Independent article on Boris Johnson’s ‘impossible’ pledges

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-climate-change-summit-glasgow-fossil-fuel-paris-agreement-a9289116.html

Renewable UK article on the proposals for offshore wind:

https://www.renewableuk.com/news/539675/Prime-Ministers-10-Point-Plan-puts-offshore-wind-at-the-top-of-the-list-for-green-economic-recovery.htm

The Committee for Climate Change (CCC) article on the 10-point plan:

https://www.theccc.org.uk/2020/11/17/ten-point-plan-is-landmark-moment-for-uks-net-zero-transition/

Institute for Government article on the 10-point plan:

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/climate-change-committee-net-zero-roadmap

UN article on climate change:

https://www.un.org/en/un75/climate-crisis-race-we-can-win

IPCC report on global warming:

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/

Aurora Energy research reposne to 10 point plan:

https://auroraer.com/country/europe/analysis-10-point-plan-green-industrial-revolution/

Smart energy article on the first hydrogen town:

https://www.smart-energy.com/industry-sectors/new-technology/first-hydrogen-town-planned-in-britain/

CND article on nuclear power as a ‘clean’ energy source

https://cnduk.org/cnd-condemns-new-nuclear-power/

Greenpeace article on net zero

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/explained-theresa-mays-net-zero-plan-wtf-is-it-will-it-be-any-good/

Sustrans response to the 10 point plan:

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/news/2020/november/our-response-to-the-uk-government-s-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution

CCC article on hydrogen in a low carbon economy

https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Hydrogen-in-a-low-carbon-economy.pdf