Update provided alongside Prime Minister's speech on economic recovery, confirms plans for up to £100m of carbon capture innovation funding
The government has today announced and reaffirmed a series of green funding commitments, including a major pledge to provide up to £100m of new funding to support the development of Direct Air Capture (DAC) emissions reduction technologies.
In an update released alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speech on the government's economic plans, Number 10 said it was working to support the research and development of emerging DAC technologies that "could be deployed across the country to remove carbon from the air, helping sectors where it's tough to decarbonise such as aviation".
It added that to "help bring forward" the technology the government was "exploring options around carbon pricing and incentives, where the government may pay a price per tonne of CO2 captured".
However, no details were provided on the precise level of R&D funding, the timetable for awarding new grants, or how a carbon pricing mechanism would work to drive the development of the embryonic sector.
The announcement appears to build on the government's previous pledge to fund a series of net zero industrial hubs, which would deploy a range of carbon capture and storage technologies to help tackle emissions from hard to decarbonise sectors.
In his speech this morning, Johnson said the government would tackle the economic crisis unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic by doubling down on previous pledges to 'level up' the UK by investing in a raft of new infrastructure projects. He promised the UK would "build back better" and "build back greener", but also unveiled plans to reform planning rules to allow the UK to "build back faster".
He also reaffirmed plans to boost forest cover across Britain by planting 75,000 acres of trees every year by 2025, deploy 4,000 zero emission buses, and step up investment in cycling infrastructure.
The speech garnered a mixed response from green groups, who welcomed the commitment to a green recovery, but lamented the relative paucity of new funding announcements and questioned whether the promised planning reforms would be accompanied by improved green building standards.
However, government sources insisted further announcements would feature in the Chancellor's economic update to Parliament next week and Number 10 this afternoon published a list of green projects and programmes that are in the pipeline, some of which were not highlighted by Johnson in his speech.
In addition to the new support for DAC technology, the government said it "will continue to set out further measures as part of its green agenda in the run up to COP26 in November 2021".
Specifically, it confirmed it would make additional funding available this year to attract investment in 'gigafactories' and bolster the UK electric vehicle manufacturing supply chain; deliver £10m of funding, available immediately, for the first wave of innovative R&D projects to scale-up manufacturing of the latest technology in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells; and provide additional funding to progress initial site planning and preparation for manufacturing plants and industry clusters, with sites under consideration across the UK.
The pledges form part of the government's commitment to spend up to £1bn to attract investment in EV supply chains and R&D to the UK, which is designed to complement the £1bn that was provided at the last Budget to support the rollout of ultra-low emission vehicles in the UK via support for a super-fast charging network for electric vehicles, and extension of the Plug-In Grant schemes.
In addition, the government confirmed plans for a £40m Green Recovery Challenge Fund to help halt biodiversity loss and tackle climate change through local conservation projects, which is expected to create up to 5,000 jobs.
Number 10 also reiterated the government's recently announced goal to deliver a net zero emission flight across the Atlantic within a generation.
The announcements were welcomed by green commentators, although critics noted that the government is still yet to provide any update on its manifesto pledge to invest £9.2bn in building energy efficiency upgrades and has delayed the publication of its crucial National Infrastructure Strategy until the autumn.
Reports have suggested the Prime Minister's senior advisor, Dominic Cummings, is pushing to dilute the scheme, prompting an angry response from campaigners who have argued energy efficiency represents a critical component of the UK's net zero transition and an unrivalled opportunity to create jobs and boost the economy.
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