Everyone welcomes the net zero strategy: one year behind schedule and lack of both ambition and funding | Green economy


IIn politics, timing is of the essence. Last week the government laid out its strategy to meet its net zero carbon goals: it came a year later than expected, and less than a fortnight before the UK came to the forefront on the world stage as host of the UN Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow.

The long-awaited climate project covered broad ‘net zero’ ambitions ranging from renewables and electric vehicles to carbon capture and electric heat pumps – and yet it still offered too little, if not too late.

It is insufficient in two crucial areas: ambition and public funding. Critics say the carbon savings set out in the document will not bring the UK closer to its net zero target by 2050, and that without the funds, even that limited ambition might not be achieved.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said the success of the government’s net zero plans would depend on ministers putting in place major and sometimes costly policy changes.

Timing is also crucial in the race to tackle the climate crisis – but one can’t help but wonder if the countdown to Cop26 meant that officials did not have time to make policies with the depth, details and adherence of the Treasury to meet deadline, despite a year overdue. Delays breed further delays, and in the context of the climate crisis, the truism that winning slowly is losing is all too apt.

The government hopes that alongside its plan to end the UK’s contribution to global warming, it will create up to 440,000 jobs and ‘unlock’ £ 90bn of private sector investment over the course of the only decade to come. But everything could be in danger if the “how?” at the heart of the UK’s climate plans remain unanswered.

If the government hopes to achieve its goals, the time taken today on the details of tomorrow would be well spent. Take nuclear: the ambition to advance investment in a new generation of nuclear reactors is nearly 20 years old and has been greatly delayed. In the latest net zero strategy, the government pledged to secure a final investment for a full-scale nuclear power plant by the end of Parliament, but offered no new way to meet this challenge.

Legislation for a new funding framework to meet the challenge of exorbitant upfront nuclear costs is expected to emerge “very soon,” according to a Whitehall source, but did not do so in time for the net zero strategy.

For households, the initial cost of new heating and low-carbon insulation poses a challenge on a much smaller scale than the nuclear dilemma – but with major cumulative implications for the UK’s climate goals and requiring a coherent plan.

The government’s flagship home insulation program, the Green Homes Grant, collapsed earlier this year after failing to deliver the promised energy efficiency boom amid accusations it was fatally rushed and poorly thought out.

This does not bode well for the government’s high-profile pledge of £ 5,000 in grants to around 90,000 homes over the next three years for electric heat pumps, a low-carbon technology that can be used. extremely effective in keeping houses warm – if the house in question is properly insulated.

Perhaps a plan to replace the Green Homes Grant, like the plan to finance new nuclear reactors, just wasn’t quite ready to be included in the zero net strategy as part of a plan. overall reduction in UK household emissions.

Either way, it’s high time the government started setting its deadlines through the pressing need for climate action rather than through a political lens.

Forget Tesla: SpaceX will put a rocket under Musk’s wealth

Could Elon Musk become the world’s first billionaire? Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, thinks so, not from his successful electric car company Tesla, but from SpaceX: the rocket company that he seriously hopes will allow humans to colonize Mars.

It might sound crazy, but Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas says SpaceX has the potential to grow from a single company to four new industries: space travel, space infrastructure, Earth observation and exploration. from deep space.

If talks to tackle the Cop26 climate crisis later this month collapse and temperatures continue to rise steadily, perhaps an escape to Mars will be the best option for the survival of generations. futures (if they can afford a ticket). The richest people in the world would be the beneficiaries of such a crisis, as Musk, Jeff Bezos (who owns Blue Origin) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) are the only competitors in the race to commercialize spacecraft.

Musk, 50, is in pole position. As Jonas puts it, SpaceX “challenges any preconceived notions of what was possible and the possible timeframe, in terms of rockets, launchers and supporting infrastructure.”

To date, Musk, who is already the richest person in the world, with a paper fortune of $ 241 billion, has drawn most of his fortune from Tesla.

The company has a market value of $ 905 billion, more than the next six largest traditional automakers combined, although the company only produces 900,000 cars a year. Toyota produces nine million.

Despite Tesla’s success – stocks have risen 960% since the pandemic started alone – Jonas says it will be SpaceX that takes Musk to a 13-figure fortune. He explains that SpaceX has much greater disruptive potential than Tesla, which is very disruptive, and points out that Musk owns about half of SpaceX, a private company, compared to about a fifth of the automaker.

Jonas asked his clients which stock they would prefer to bet on from here. About 63% have opted for SpaceX, with one predicting that it “could possibly be the most successful company in the world – across industries.”

Red meat from politics leaves little appetite to reduce beef consumption

The need to reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products is undeniable. But the pork barrel policy is to hand out money to try to win the election – not to tax the sausages.

And so Downing Street once again quickly denied plans to introduce a meat tax, after a proposal was published and then withdrawn within hours last week.

Conservative MPs were quick to voice their opposition, giving the impression that it remains anathema to them. “I am a big meat eater. I think it’s wonderful, ” noted Conservative MP Tom Hunt.

Government climate change advisers say meat and dairy consumption must fall by at least 20% per person by the end of the decade for the UK to stay on track to achieve its net zero goals.

Yet the practicalities of using a tax to achieve this reduction remain unclear, especially since the carbon footprint can vary widely depending on the type of meat, where and how it is produced. produced.

Beef requires much more land and water and produces more climate emissions than chicken, for example, while cattle raised on deforested land are responsible for many more greenhouse gas emissions than chicken. animals raised on natural pastures.

A meat tax could encourage more people to adopt vegan or vegetarian alternatives, but could also lead to increased imports of cheaper meat. And there are concerns about the possibility of restricting access to a source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

None of this, however, should prevent politicians from helping to gain greater public support for the need to reduce meat consumption. Nothing prevents them either from subsidizing alternatives to meat or from introducing meat-free days more widely in schools and the public sector.

But for now, neither the Conservatives nor Labor – who are desperately trying to win rural and agricultural voices – seem willing to start winning hearts and minds over the imperative of a meat reduction strategy.

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