Boris Johnson may have many talents (it’s possible). But when it comes to climate change mitigation, facing up to facts isn’t one of them: his much trailed Ten Point Plan, flagged as a “Green Industrial Revolution” and launched earlier this month. This commits the UK Government to phasing out the internal combustion engine within the next decade and increasing investment in a range of new technologies, including the Flash Gordon sounding (and currently non existent) Jet Zero Aircraft and Green Ocean Liner.
But well intentioned as it might be, the Plan has more in common with spark plugs than sustainability, and especially so given (despite its snappy title) the Green Industrial Revolution is already well underway, with or without Boris.
It’s about time…
According to the UN based World Meteorological Organization (“WMO”), and despite the impact of COVID restrictions that resulted in short term reductions of between 4.2% and 7.5%, carbon emissions have now reached record levels: global warming has increased by 45% since 1990, with a “growth spurt” throughout 2019 added in for good measure (www.public.wmo.int). The last time there was such a sustained build up in CO2 levels was 5 Million years ago, and we weren’t around then to take note of the statistics then.
So what exactly is Boris planning to do to meet that challenge of the Green Industrial Revolution?
Well, he aims to phase out the internal combustion engine by 2030 (see above) and that’s obviously an eye-catching measure, but the Ten Point Plan also commits the Government to investing £385 Million in the “next generation” of nuclear power stations.
Despite the fact that even if nuclear capacity was quadrupled by 2050 it would still only account for 10% of UK energy needs, not on any basis sufficient to replace fossil fuel generation and particularly so given the limited investment in wind and solar power envisaged by the Plan.
And that’s leaving aside the inherent dangers and the well-worn capacity of nuclear sites to generate dangerous levels of hazardous waste. It doesn’t sound especially environment friendly.
Take another look too at that figure of £385 Million. Its chickenfeed bearing in mind the new Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant Project is expected to cost £22.5 Billion: £3 Billion over budget and fifteen months behind schedule.
A new offshore wind turbine costs an average of £3 Million, so you could build 1000 of them for the cost of one Hinkley Point. In that context the Plan projects a meagre £160 million of new investment in offshore wind technology, so just 80 new turbines… chickenfeed.
The current shortsighted strategy?
And neither will the Plan commit the UK Government to phase out the current short sighted strategy of purchasing carbon offsets from abroad, meaning carbon emissions are effectively exported to territories with lower (non Paris compliant) protocols.
That’s hardly a full-throated commitment to truly international climate mitigation: as though importing “dirty” electricity is fine because it’s not produced in Hampshire. Tell that to anyone living next to a power station in Poland.
To be fair to Boris, there’s also a plan for more bicycles and footpaths, but bikes and boots on their own won’t amount to any sort of revolution: green or otherwise.
So, what about the Ten Point Plan?
In truth, the Ten Point Plan will leave the United Kingdom significantly behind the EU on climate change mitigation (www.ec.europa.eu.).
After Brexit goes live in January, the UK will silently fall out of the Bloc’s sharing arrangements on carbon reduction which are expected to deliver a 55% cut in emissions by 2030.
And India is well on track to secure carbon emission levels to meet a global warming goal of 2 Degrees Celsius within ten years (despite the peculiar challenges posed by its rapidly burgeoning population and fast expanding economy): 40% of the subcontinent’s electricity will be non fossil fuel generated by 2030 and “emission intensities” will be a third of 2005 levels by the same date.
The subcontinent has also increased solar capacity by 1,200% since 2014 and introduced groundbreaking initiatives to minimise domestic consumption levels. In stark contrast the UK Government has actively promoted measures that reduce solar capacity and done little or nothing to reduce consumption.
In short, while Boris scrambles around to define his Green Industrial Revolution the rest of the world has already moved on… the future already belongs to sustainable innovation.
Red Ribbon (www.redribbon.co) has always been committed to pursuing Mainstream Impact Investment strategies that are not only consistent with sustainable growth but also offer above market rate returns whilst at the same time protecting precious natural resources through innovative programmes like the Eco Hotels Project (www.ecohotelsglobal.com).
Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid-market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent.
Welcome as they might otherwise have been, I can’t help feeling a little disappointed by the obvious lack of ambition in the UK’s Plans for a “Green Industrial Revolution”: not least because they seem largely ignore the radical steps being taken elsewhere in the world on climate change mitigation, and particularly in India.
But having placed Planet, People and Profit at the heart of Red Ribbon’s corporate vision since it was founded more than a decade ago, I remain on any basis committed to the long-term potential of those international strategies, whatever the short-term future of the Ten Point Plan might be.