UK is halfway to meeting its target of Net Zero emissions by 2050

This month, we kick things off with good news from the world of energy consumption. The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were 51% below 1990 levels, according to a new Carbon Brief analysis. 

The milestone was reached after a record-breaking 11% fall in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, largely due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Emissions are likely to rebound this year or next as the economy recovers.

Intriguingly, the data shows that the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2020 were lower than the amount released from coal burning alone in 1970.

“We are on the right path; the pandemic has of course made an impact too,” comments Kevin Cox, our Managing Director at Energys Group.

“Let’s maintain Net Zero momentum and push as hard as we can on truly delivering sustainable low carbon futures.”

Energy efficiency boost

A stonking £300 million of extra funding is to be invested to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s homes through energy efficiency and low carbon heating schemes, writes The Energyst.

It explains: ‘Following a review, the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme launched last year will close to new applications on 31 March at 5pm.

‘The scheme was designed to provide a short-term economic boost while tackling our contribution to climate change. Applications made before the end of March deadline will be honoured and any vouchers already issued may be extended upon request.’

The Energyst estimates the announcement takes the total government funding for energy efficiency and low carbon heating in 2021/22 to over £1.3 billion, with the remainder of the funding having been pledged through the decarbonisation fund. This is up from the £1 billion announced in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan and exceeds the Government’s manifesto commitment in these early years of the parliament.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This latest announcement takes our total energy efficiency spending to over £1.3 billion in the next financial year, giving installers the certainty, they need to plan ahead, create new jobs and train the next generation of builders, plumbers and tradespeople.”

But other commentators noted the Green Homes Grant has been troubled since its launch last September, after it was announced in July as the central plank of the government’s bid to “build back better” and create new green jobs to help the economy recover from the pandemic. There were more than 123,000 applications for the grant by the end of February, but only 28,000 vouchers had been issued and only 5,800 energy efficiency measures had been installed.

As ever, sustainability in this country remains highly politicised, with the truth at times opaque and challenging to establish.

Green jobs nosedive

EDIE reports that new data from the Office for National Statistics reveals the UK hosted 202,100 low carbon and renewable energy jobs in 2019 – 30,000 fewer than in 2014.

Sectors analysed include renewable power generation, energy flexibility, energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs). The largest single sector in terms of roles is the manufacturing of energy efficiency projects. This represented 37,900 of the roles.

Green groups and trade unions have warned that further job losses are likely in the sectors analysed, because of Covid-19, unless the Government takes further action to realise its commitment to a green recovery.

“At Energys, we agree it’s essential to protect livelihoods and skilled trades within the energy efficiency sector,” says Kevin Cox.

“We really must try and rebuild with greener jobs and sectors at the forefront; they will support our economy and the transition to Net Zero more robustly than short term fossil alternatives.”

Third of UK’s biggest companies commit to net zero

And finally, nearly a third of the UK’s largest businesses have made a pledge to eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by 2050.

Together these firms, including AstraZeneca, BT Group, Sainsbury’s, and Unilever, represent a total market capital of £650 billion.

UK Net Zero Business Champion Andrew Griffith said: “Today’s news of 30 of the FTSE100 joining the Race to Zero makes the UK a global leader on tackling emissions with British companies representing a third of those signed up globally. It shows what can be done but, in the months running up to COP26, every board should engage on this vital topic.”

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