Government unveils Net Zero Strategy

The UK Government has today (19 October) released its Net Zero strategy, which sets out the roadmap towards ending the nation’s contribution to climate change by 2050, with much of the policy impacting the waste and resource management sector.

UK GovernmentThe scheme expands on the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, laying out an economy-wide strategy for how businesses and consumers will be supported in the transition to green energy and technology. The Government claims that the new commitments will ‘unlock’ approximately £90 billion in private investments, as well as supporting the creation of 440,000 roles across the green industries by 2030.

Strategy pertaining to the waste and resource management sector

As part of the strategy, the Net Zero plan aims to ‘kick-start’ the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Comprising waste materials – including household refuse; flue gases from industrial sources; and carbon captured from either the excess production of electricity or the atmosphere – SAF is noted to produce 70 per cent fewer carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel. The Government is aiming to enable the delivery of 10 per cent SAF by 2030, supporting UK industry with approximately £180 million in investment in order to assist the development of SAF plants across the nation.

The strategy also outlines a £140 million investment into the Industrial and Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme, tasked with accelerating industrial carbon capture and hydrogen across the country. The Government states that the ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between industrial costs from gas and hydrogen, facilitating the start-up of ‘green’ energy projects in the process. £1 billion is to be allocated to funding two carbon capture clusters: the Hynet Cluster in North West England and North Wales; and the East Coast Cluster in Teesside and the Humber.

Whilst considered a green solution to fossil fuels by its supporters, the implementation of these energy from waste (EfW) facilities, and their accompanying carbon capture infrastructure, remains a contentious issue. There are concerns surrounding the potential for incinerators to contribute to the release of greenhouse gasses (GHG) into the atmosphere, which its proponents claim can be assuaged by the implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies. Critics would be quick to suggest, however, that CCS only perpetuates the burning of waste through exacerbating the lock-in effect of such facilities.

In terms of municipal waste, the strategy plans on investing £295 million in capital funding to allow local authorities to prepare for the implementation of separate household food refuse collections by 2025 – this falls under the Government’s commitment to the ‘near elimination’ of municipal waste to landfill from 2028. With separate collections becoming obligatory, food waste should be diverted from the traditional waste stream and, instead, be turned into biogas or digestate through anaerobic digestion (AD).

The standardisation of collections has been up for dispute over the past year, however. Many local authorities point out that the introduction of separate food waste collections will include flats and other dwellings that are not currently subscribed to such services and whilst the target date for achieving distinct refuse pickup is set at 2023/2024, many local authorities are tied to contracts that extend beyond this date.

Building on strategy

The publication of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy coincides with the release of the Heat and Buildings Strategy, as well as HM Treasury’s Net Zero Review. The latter is an analytical report which unpacks the key issues involved in the decarbonisation of the nation. According to the government, it aims to inform policymakers of the factors that should be taken into consideration when devising decarbonisation legislation, underscoring where opportunities could arise.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, commented: “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.

Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “There is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment. The countries that capture the benefits of this global green industrial revolution will enjoy unrivalled growth and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK is fighting fit.

“Today’s plan will not only unlock billions of pounds of investment to boost the UK’s competitive advantage in green technologies, but will create thousands of jobs in new, future-proof industries – clearly demonstrating that going green and economic growth go hand in hand.”