In 2019 climate change hit the headlines. Greta Thunberg’s youth climate strikes mobilised a whole generation to demand climate action. Extinction Rebellion brought climate protests to the streets, and made climate change front page news. David Attenborough’s BBC documentary brought home the impact of climate change for a nation.
The UK became the first major economy to set a target for reaching net zero emissions – by 2050. The international climate conference in Madrid, COP25 was perhaps a disappointing end to a year, which had seen action on climate taking a big step forward. As someone who’s worked in the wind industry for nearly 20 years the shift in public thirst for action and politicians’ willingness to act is palpable. As is politicians’ awareness of it.
In his first speech on the steps of Number 10, the Prime Minister committed to getting the UK to zero carbon by 2050. The Government has moved from
wondering whether we should aim for net zero, to how we reach it. This is a
As a new year and decade begins here are our 5 wishes for 2020. We’ll focus on the year 2020 rather than the whole decade as, quite frankly, we need things to happen next year, not in 2030. The time for lofty grand long-term plans that kick real action down the road is over. We need specifics. We need detail. We need to know what to do today:
1. An economy wide net zero plan
It needs to set out actions in 2021, 2025, 2030, and 2040. Not just energy and transport but agriculture, planning, trade, education, and tax policy. Everything. It needs to be led by a Minister with the cabinet seniority to deliver and hold other departments to account. Net zero must be the responsibility of all ministers.
2. Ease the planning constraints on onshore wind in England
Onshore wind is the UK’s cheapest source of electricity and one of the most popular. Yet it’s almost impossible to get new wind farms consented in England. People in England want to see more wind farms. We should be embracing the very latest in turbine technology to ensure UK consumers can benefit from the very lowest cost electricity. The planning laws prevent that happening, which is crazy. It could be sorted overnight.
3. Petrol and diesel scrappage scheme to drive electric vehicle take up
The UK already plans to ban the sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Why wait? The ban should be brought forward to 2030 or earlier. Combining it with a car scrappage scheme could really tip the balance – especially if people could use the scrappage payment to buy into a pool of shared cars rather than having to buy their own new car. Encouraging people to move away from individual car ownership will reduce the total number of cars on the road. It will ease congestion and make our towns and cities nicer places to be.
4. Gas boiler scrappage scheme to tip balance for zero carbon alternatives
We need to get off our addiction to gas boilers – fast. New homes built from 2025 onwards will not have a connection to the gas grid. They will have to have alternative zero carbon heating systems like heat pumps or electric heat batteries. This will drive the mass market roll-out of these alternatives, reducing their cost and increasing their availability. Why not ban the sale of new gas boilers soon after as well? A scrappage payment could help ease the upfront cost and drive awareness amongst consumers.
5. Tip the balance in favour of rail over air
How often have you seen the cost of a flight and thought it just shouldn’t
be that cheap? It’s crazy that a train from London to Glasgow can cost many times more than a flight. Travelling cross-country (Exeter to Edinburgh anyone?) can both cost more and take many, many more hours. We need to discourage frequent flyers with an escalating frequent flyer levy. We can start with domestic flights before tackling international travel.
These are our top 5. Lots of other actions are needed, quickly. We know we need to act on climate change. The great news is we largely know what we need to do and already have the technologies to achieve it.
2020 is the time for climate action. Real, concrete, immediate action.