Greg Hands – 2021 Statement on Net Zero Strategy

The statement made by Greg Hands, the Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 19 October 2021.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the net zero strategy and the heat and buildings strategy—but first, if I may, I will congratulate my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary and his wife Harriet on the birth of their daughter on Friday. I can report to the House that both mother and baby are healthy and doing well, as is the Secretary of State. I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering our congratulations. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

The statement is all about future generations as well, because we know that we must act now on climate change. The activities of our economies, communities and societies are changing our environment. If we do not take action now, we will continue to see the worst effects of climate change.

We have already travelled a significant way down the path to net zero. Between 1990 and 2019, we grew our economy by 78% and cut our emissions by 44%, decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. Since 2010, the UK has quadrupled its renewable electricity generation and reduced carbon emissions in the power generation sector by some 70%. In the past year alone, we have published the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the energy White Paper, the North sea transition deal, the industrial decarbonisation strategy, the transport decarbonisation plan, the hydrogen strategy and more. Earlier this month, we unveiled a landmark commitment to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035.

But there is still a substantial length of road to travel. We must continue to take decisive action if we are to meet our net zero goal, so today I am pleased to announce two major Government initiatives: the net zero strategy and the heat and buildings strategy. This is not just an environmental transition; it also represents an important economic change, echoing even the explosion in industry and exports in the first industrial revolution more than 250 years ago.

We will fully embrace this new, green industrial revolution, helping the UK to level up as we build back better and get to the front of the global race to go green. We need to capitalise on it to ensure that British industries and workers benefit. I can therefore announce that the strategy will support up to 440,000 jobs across sectors and across all parts of the UK in 2030. There will be more specialists in low-carbon fuels in Northern Ireland and low-carbon hydrogen in Sheffield, electric vehicle battery production in the north-east of England, engineers in Wales, green finance in London and offshore wind technicians in Scotland.

The strategy will harness the power of the private sector, giving businesses and industry the certainty they need to invest and grow in the UK and make the UK home to new, ambitious projects. The policies and spending brought forward in the strategy, along with regulations, will leverage up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030, levelling up our former industrial heartlands.

The strategy also clearly highlights the steps that the Government are taking to work with industry to bring down the costs of key technologies, from electric vehicles to heat pumps—just as we did with offshore wind, in which we are now the world leader. Those steps will give the UK a competitive edge and get us to the head of the race.

We have spoken often in this place of late about the importance of protecting consumers, and consumers are indeed at the heart of the strategy. Making green changes such as boosting the energy efficiency of our homes will help to cut the cost of bills for consumers across the UK. Switching to cleaner sources of energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and, again, bring down costs down the line.

This plan is also our best route to overcoming current challenges. The current price spikes in gas show the need to reduce our reliance on volatile imported fossil fuels rapidly. Although there is a role for gas as a transition fuel, moving away from imports quickly is in the best interests of bill payers. With our ambitious set of policies, the strategy sets out how we meet carbon budgets 4 and 5 and our nationally determined contribution. It puts us on the path for carbon budget 6 and ultimately on course for net zero by 2050.

We are now setting up the industrial decarbonisation and hydrogen revenue support scheme to fund these business models and enable the first commercial-scale deployment of low-carbon hydrogen production and industrial carbon capture. We have also announced the HyNet and East Coast clusters as track 1 economic hubs for green jobs.

We have previously announced that we will end the sale of all new non zero emission road vehicles from 2040, and the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. The strategy explains that we will also introduce a zero emission vehicle mandate that will deliver on our 2030 commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans.

To increase the size of our carbon sinks, we will treble the rate at which we are planting new trees in England by the end of the current Parliament. We will be a global leader in developing and deploying the green technologies of the future. The strategy announces a £1.5 billion fund to support net zero innovation projects, which provides finance for low-carbon technologies across the areas of the Prime Minister’s “Ten Point Plan”.

We have also published our heat and buildings strategy, which sets out our plans to significantly cut carbon emissions from the UK’s 30 million homes and workplaces in a simple way that remains affordable and fair for British households. We will gradually move away from fossil fuel heating and improve the energy performance of our buildings through measures such as grants of up to £5,000 towards the costs of heat pumps, a further £800 million for the social housing decarbonisation fund to upgrade social housing, and a further £950 million for a home upgrade grant scheme to improve and decarbonise low-income homes off the gas grid.

The year 2021 is a vital year for action on climate change. In just two weeks’ time, the UK Government will host the crucial United Nations COP26 conference in Glasgow. As the Prime Minister has said, it needs to be a “turning point for humanity”, the point at which we pull together—and pull our socks up—to keep 1.5 °C in reach. Hosting COP26 will also give the UK a huge opportunity to showcase our world-leading climate credentials and set an example to other countries to raise their own ambitions. The net zero strategy will take centre stage in our display, setting out our vision for a UK that is cleaner, greener, and more innovative.

Mr Speaker, we are ready for Glasgow, and I commend this statement to the House.