The Prime Minister Boris Johnson took steps this week to address some of the country’s largest remaining sources of greenhouse gas emissions, announcing plans to end the sale of new gas and diesel cars within a decade and change the way people heat their homes.
The plans are expected to be a centrepiece of the government’s effort to put pressure on other countries to reduce their emissions in the run-up to major climate negotiations the UK will host next year.
Electric vehicles currently account for less than seven percent of new car purchases, so the decision to ban the sale of new gas and diesel vehicles by 2030 amounted to a strong signal to consumers and manufacturers alike. (In a minor concession to Toyota, which manufactures some hybrid cars in England, the sale of some hybrids will be allowed until 2035.)
To support the move to electric vehicles, Mr. Johnson said the government would spend £1.3 bn installing charging points and provide hundreds of millions of pounds in grants for consumers to make the cars more affordable. Even so, analysts said the government was not doing enough to support the production of electric vehicle batteries, presenting major challenges to a motor vehicle manufacturing industry that employed 166,000 people in Britain as of 2018.
Offshore wind farms, which Mr. Johnson put at the top of his green list, are helping to create jobs in areas that were once heavily industrialized, as are plans involving the oil giants BP and Equinor to capture carbon dioxide emitted by local industries in these regions and pump it into a reservoir beneath the North Sea.
“Imagine Britain when a Green Industrial Revolution has helped to level up the country,” Mr. Johnson wrote in the Financial Times on Tuesday night, suggesting that the plans could create 250,000 green jobs. “You cook breakfast using hydrogen power before getting in your electric car, having charged it overnight from batteries made in the Midlands.”
To address the problem of inefficiently heated homes, Mr. Johnson’s new plan set a target of 2028 for annually installing hundreds of thousands of heat pumps, a more efficient system than the typical gas boiler. The government also extended a program of vouchers for people making energy efficiency improvements to their homes and announced investments in trials for the use of hydrogen in heating and cooking.
The cleanest form of hydrogen — so-called green hydrogen, which is usually generated from water using clean electricity sources like offshore wind — is still expensive to make. But advocates say that with economies of scale and technical advances those costs will come down.
Britain’s nuclear industry, which accounted for 17 percent of electricity generation in 2019, was also encouraged by the government’s mention of supporting both large- and small-scale reactors.
The prime minister’s plans commit £12bn of government investment.
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