Hot air on climate action?

A significant announcement on Climate Action was made before Christmas. A ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution. Did you see it? It was easy to miss with so much in the news about Covid-19, lockdowns, tiers and vaccine development. My first reaction was, I must admit, a positive one, seeing the headline news as a strong message about tackling climate change, reducing carbon emissions and shaping a Green Recovery.

On closer inspection optimism was replaced by a more cautious scepticism. Was this just fine words, a lot of hot air on climate action? I should let you to decide, so I’ve given the link to the Government’s full plan, with the Prime Minister’s bold words in his Forward to the document. (For a summary of the 10 points see further down the post.)

Was the UK Government’s 10-point climate action plan a load of hot air?
Photo by Pixabay on

For what it’s worth, I see a lot of grand gestures which sound ambitious (ambition is certainly welcome) but may be very hard to deliver. Of course political promises are easy to make when they are long term targets, as they are dependent upon future government administrations, by which time short-term political gains are long-since in the bag.

The cynical environmentalist in me sees a lot of industrial growth and rampant capitalism dressed in green recovery clothing. It makes frequent mention of jobs, growth, investment, industry, homes, technology….It seems to strongly imply that we can science our way out of the runaway greenhouse climate with technology and a new industrial revolution, without sacrificing any first world privileges.

Photo by Julia Volk on

Is it just enough to placate the greenies, while sounding the klaxon loud and clear for continuing our profligate lifestyles? (Our Western diet, industrial agriculture, travel choices etc.) For me, this present-day glorification of growth; this science-as-our-saviour, technology-will-fix-everything approach is cold comfort for meaningful action on global warming. It appears that a lot is pinned upon mainstreaming hydrogen fuel technology (as far as I am aware still pretty experimental for domestic and commercial applications) and putting great faith in a renewed nuclear age. It all reads a bit 1950s, like we’ll all be in hover cars and living lives of leisure while robots service all of society’s needs. Am I too harsh?

To me this Plan is a handy distraction, a postponement of tougher societal and behaviour changes, while it’s business as usual for growth in industry, housing development, power generation and transport.

You can read the headlines below, but I recommend reading the introductory rhetoric of the full Ten Point Plan plan publication (top of post).

“The Prime Minister’s ten points, which are built around the UK’s strengths”, are:

  1. Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
  2. Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  3. Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
  4. Electric vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles.
  5. Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.
  6. Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
  7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  8. Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.
  9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
  10. Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global centre of green finance.

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