Britain's biggest business group urges government to fast track rollout of host of green technologies, including new CCUS, hydrogen, EV, and renewables projects
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to get on with fast-tracking the UK's push towards net zero emissions, amid rising frustration from business over the absence of detailed decarbonisation plans and ongoing delays to key green policy measures.
With the UK set to host the next UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, Britain's biggest business group today called on the government to build on its rhetoric promising to cement the UK as a global leader in climate action by using the rest of the year to reignite efforts to put the country on track for net zero emissions by 2050.
The business body today launched a 'Green Recovery Roadmap', which calls for the government to build back from the Covid-19 pandemic-induced recession by accelerating the deployment of a host of crucial green technologies.
As such, the Roadmap urges the government to publish the long-awaited Energy White Paper, so as to explain how a net zero energy system can be delivered, and release the promised National Infrastructure Strategy, which has now been delayed several times.
More broadly, the Roadmap urges the government to accelerate efforts to develop and scale up renewables, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, green retrofits for buildings, hydrogen infrastructure, sustainable aviation fuels, and carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS) technologies.
It argues major decisions from the government in these areas are needed in order to provide the certainty and incentives that can unlock the private sector investment that can deliver a wave of landmark green projects.
In a speech to mark the Roadmap's launch later, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, is expected to say that while the government's repeated claims that it wants to deliver on the UK's net zero goal are welcome, "action speaks a thousand times louder than words".
"Business has been promised and is waiting for the government's climate blueprint - the Energy White Paper, National Infrastructure Strategy, as well as plans for the decarbonisation of transport, heat and buildings," she will say. "Enabling firms to strike ahead with their investment plans for a net-zero future with confidence - there's no more powerful way to unlock private investment for the UK and set the agenda and pace of COP26 negotiations."
Fairbairn will also reiterate calls from business for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, arguing that Covid-19 and climate change are the two biggest challenges of the modern era, but "they're not separate" as "the response to one affects success on the other".
"The defining question is: How does the UK use this moment to rebuild our economy and the greener and stronger world we want to return to?" she is expected to say.
Specifically, the CBI Roadmap recommends nationwide investment in EV charging points as well as government funding for a UK-based 'gigafactory' battery manufacturing facility in order to spur market and demand for electric mobility. Moreover, it calls for at least £1bn government funding for hydrogen testing programmes through a Contracts for Difference-style (CfD) auction, as well as a new Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels to oversee a recommended £500m of green aviation investment.
Fairbairn is expected to say that the UK is in "pole position to lead the world in green tech" such as hydrogen and CCUS, but that business needs the policy certainty and incentives from government in order to help the UK "lay the foundations for a strong sustainable future".
"As COP26 chair and holder of the G7 presidency next year, the UK has a unique opportunity to prove itself a global climate leader post-Brexit," Fairbairn will say. "Securing ambitious international commitments and taking action towards our own net-zero transition."
Ministers have repeatedly stressed they are committed to delivering a green recovery and in recent weeks the government has launched a £3bn energy efficiency upgrade programme, as well as a host of multi-million pound initiatives to increase investment in areas such as smart manufacturing, green aviation R&D, electric vehicle development, and others.
However, critics have noted that the UK government is yet to deliver a green stimulus package on a scale to match the €40bn programme announced by Germany earlier this summer or the €35bn package announced by France last month. Meanwhile, when questioned by MPs last week Business Secretary Alok Sharma declined to confirm that the government's much anticipated national climate action plan, which is due to be submitted to the UN under the Paris Agreement, would be finalised this year.
A government spokesperson said the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was "committed to tackling climate change and building back greener, and has set out his vision that the UK should have the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth"
"Ahead of COP 26, we will be setting out plans covering the whole breadth of government to make progress on our net zero commitments, including a Transport Decarbonisation Plan, an Energy White Paper and an English Tree Strategy," the spokesperson added.
BP's Energy Outlook 2020 sketches three possible pathways for the global energy system to follow to 2050, from 'net-zero' to 'business as usual'
Tech giant pledges to offset all its historic emissions, as CEO Sundar Pichai unveils fresh sustainability goals for the coming decade
Interim report on fatal crash warns climate impacts on the rail network are "accelerating faster than our assumptions"
Climate action 100+ writes to CEOs of world's largest greenhouse gas emitting firms urging them to develop net zero-aligned business strategies