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Government urged to ratchet up green ambitions as Clean Growth Plan looms

The government has today been urged to bolster its ambitions for the UK’s green economy as it prepares to publish its long awaited Clean Growth Plan (CGP).

Parliament returns from summer recess in less than a fortnight and one of the more pressing items on its agenda will be to publish the CGP, which is now more than a year overdue.

The CGP, formerly known as the Emissions Reduction Plan, is to set out how the government plans to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1,725 MtCO2e by 2032, as ratified by then-energy secretary Amber Rudd in one of her final acts in the role.

And today a host of environment and development organisations have collaborated on a new report urging the government to be more ambitious with the green economy than it has previously been.

The report, dubbed ‘Why the UK needs an ambitious clean growth plan now’, has pooled together work by Green Alliance, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, and details the work needed in areas such as power, heat, transport and the built environment.

Renewable power has proven to be a particularly contentious area of the CGP given the so-called “bonfire” of cuts enacted by the Conservative-led government since 2015. Onshore wind support has been all but curtailed and solar stripped significantly, leaving the two cheapest forms of renewable power without a route to market.

Green Alliance cited previous research which estimated renewables investment in the UK to peak at £6.2 billion in this financial year, but could suffer a near total collapse in the absence of supportive policies and slip to less than £300 million by 2020/21.

Meanwhile, the cost of renewable power is expected to continue its drastic decline, with solar falling to around £60/MWh by 2030 and onshore wind becoming cheaper still at £39/MWh. 

The report suggests that £1.7 billion should be allocated to renewable energy capacity auctions, like Contracts for Difference, between 2020 and 2025 to stimulate more renewable deployment.

The second CfD auction remains open with winners expected to be announced next month, however with established technologies like solar and onshore wind locked out their deployment remains stymied.

And recent government announcements in transport have also been criticised for an apparent lack of ambition.

Prior to summer recess it was announced that sales of new conventional diesel and petrol vehicles would be prohibited by 2040 which, although progressive, was accused of not being ambitious enough, particularly given proposals from other countries around the globe.

Green Alliance has noted that if the ban was to be brought in 10 years earlier, it could potentially halve foreign oil imports into the UK by 2035.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF, said the current proposal was “too little, too late”.

“We can and must go faster. Other countries, such as India and Norway, are way ahead in the scale of their ambitions. To ensure the UK doesn’t miss out on the jobs and investment opportunity in clean, modern vehicles, the UK should up its ambition,” he said.