Following on from his much hyped 10 Point Plan, Boris Johnson’s government has released a new White Paper entitled ‘Powering our Net Zero Future’ which aims to add meat to the government’s planned eco-initiatives.
In the foreword to the White Paper, Alok Sharma, the business minister states that the failure on part of the UK consumer to cut back on fossil fuels in their homes and cars ‘will result in natural catastrophes and changing weather patterns alongside significant economic damage including supply chain disruption and the displacement of populations.’
The White Paper highlights the government’s aim of encouraging insulation of homes, the rolling out of smart meters, smart washing machines, smart dishwashers and smart tariffs. This they believe will see an end to conventional cars and vans, and a transition to clean, zero tailpipe emission vehicles.
Sounds rather fanciful, and damned expensive. To make it slightly redeemable there are nods to how this is going to be affordable to the average consumer. The government has issued assurances that it will create new green jobs, yet it contradicts itself within a few pages going from claiming that ‘up to 250,000 green jobs will be there by 2030’ to ‘up to 220,000 jobs per year’ by 2030. This is a confused and muddled proposal and has been argued before, it is unlikely to actually help the economy, given the long term effects of this green policy.
One of the major issues of the White Paper is not that it is filled with soundbites, but rather that it continues to focus on how the public has to be brought into line to allow the government to meet its ‘Net Zero’ agenda. One estimate put the mentions of homes and houses at three hundred, whilst the mentions of factories was at four, and three for lorries and trucks. The White Paper suggests that one way to make people’s lives easier as part of this ‘Net Zero’ agenda is by using smart IT to ensure engagement, so that the public can ‘make a personal contribution to delivering a clean energy system.’ Which in reality would suggest a day-to-day involvement from the public.
The focus on the public completely removes responsibility from the government for ensuring that it can bring both a balanced energy policy as well as a sensible economic policy. In the White Paper, there are mentions of Carbon Capture and Usage, a Conservative ambition that will receive a paltry fund to help make it a reality.
The government continue this ill funded strategy in their proposals for nuclear energy. The ‘Advanced Nuclear Fund’ will only get £385 million, despite the paper acknowledging its benefits are more weighty than something such as hydrogen.
The White Paper seems to suggest that the government has ambitions but doesn’t quite know what those ambitions are or how to go about achieving them. A common problem it seems.