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More support for electric cars and tree planting as net zero strategy published

·3 min read

New investment for electric car grants, on-street charging points and planting trees has been announced as the Government sets out its plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The long-awaited net zero strategy has been unveiled ahead of crucial UN Cop26 climate talks which the UK is hosting in Glasgow, with ministers hoping to set an example to other countries on how to go green.

It details how the Government aims to meet its legal target to cut climate-warming emissions to net zero by 2050, cutting pollution as much as possible and using measures such as woodland creation to mop up what remains.

Setting out the plans, ministers said it would support 440,000 well paid jobs and unlock £90 billion in private investment in 2030 on the way to the mid-century goal, as well as reducing the UK’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and putting the country at risk of global price spikes.

But critics were quick to warn the strategy, which runs to more than 360 pages, did not provide enough policies or investment to drive the transformation needed to reach net zero.

New investment in the plans includes £620 million for electric vehicle grants and infrastructure such as on-street charging, £500 million for innovation projects to develop new clean technologies and £140 million to help green hydrogen projects get off the ground, officials said.

A £450 million pot will give households in England and Wales grants of £5,000 to swap their gas boilers for low-carbon electric heat pumps for heating and hot water, and there is a £124 million boost for creating woodlands and restoring peatland to store carbon.

And the Government said it will introduce a zero emission vehicle mandate setting targets for a percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emissions each year from 2024.

Watch: The UK's quest for net zero: Can carbon capture finally fulfil its promise?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK’s path to ending our contribution to climate change will be paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries, powering our green industrial revolution across the country.

“By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way.

“With the major climate summit Cop26 just around the corner, our strategy sets the example for other countries to build back greener too as we lead the charge towards global net zero.”

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The plan falls short on delivery, and while there is modest short-term investment, there is nothing like the commitment we believe is required,” pointing the finger at Treasury involvement in preventing more action.

“My fear is this plan will not deliver the fair, prosperous transition we need equal to the scale of the emergency we face,” he warned.

Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, said: “This document is more like a pick and mix than the substantial meal that we need to reach net zero.

“Extra cash for tree planting and progress on electric vehicles doesn’t make up for the lack of concrete plans to deliver renewables at scale, extra investment in public transport, or a firm commitment to end new oil and gas licences.”

She warned there were only half-hearted policies and funding commitments to cut carbon from draughty homes at the rate necessary, and it failed to grapple with the need to reduce meat and dairy consumption.

“Until the policy and funding gaps are closed, Boris Johnson’s plea to other countries to deliver on their promises at the global climate conference next month will be easy to ignore,” she said.

Watch: Tesla may push VW to speed EV shift, job cuts

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