The recent speech delivered by the Prime Minister on 20th September 2023 has illuminated both a path forward and the enormous challenges we face. In his address last week, the Prime Minister outlined a comprehensive plan that underscores our commitment to achieving net zero and demonstrates our international leadership, while highlighting the need for pragmatic and achievable policies.
Our success to date has been staggering. Not only have we led the world in reducing our carbon emissions (the best in the G7), but we have also improved air quality by reducing sulphur dioxide levels by 98% and nitrogen oxides by 77%. Our households use 25% less energy than the previous generation, and renewables are now generating more of our national electricity than fossil fuels. As others have stated, overall UK carbon emissions are down to levels last seen in the 1850s.
These successes, coupled with the fact that we contribute less than 1% of global emissions, means that we have a record to be proud of and an opportunity to build further on these successes. Perhaps most importantly, they also show how you can make huge and successful changes by seeing businesses, policymakers and the public working together while also maintaining economic stability.
The Prime Minister's ambitious plan focuses on several key pillars that underscore our dedication to achieving net-zero emissions. One of these pillars is the substantial investment in green technology. The plan commits significant resources to research and development of clean energy sources, an initiative that reduces our carbon footprint while positioning the UK as a global leader in cutting-edge environmental solutions.
Moreover, this plan emphasises the importance of green finance. By incentivising private sector investments in sustainable projects and reducing tax liabilities for green finance initiatives, we can continue to encourage competition, innovation and capitalism to ensure we continue to lead the world as a low-carbon economy. This approach not only relieves the burden on public resources but also stimulates creativity, thus helping drive down the costs of renewable technologies.
While R&D and the private sector investment will play their part in creating new technologies, it is also essential for us to be realistic about the need to expand our capacity when it comes to electricity.
As we transition away from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy sources like wind, solar, tidal and nuclear power, the demand for electricity is set to soar. This is especially true as electric vehicles become more prevalent, homes are heated with electricity rather than gas, and industries adopt electrified processes. To support these changes, the UK must invest in its energy infrastructure to prevent any shortages or disruptions. Sadly, the likes of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems opposing new nuclear in 2010 because they wouldn’t come online until 2022 have severely hampered our ability to create a network that can support our great electric transition.
The Prime Minister has rightly identified that the supply and demand levels are out of balance and that achieving the cleaner and greener future we all want requires a staggering rewiring of the whole of the country as well as several pragmatic policies.
For some, this pragmatic and realistic approach is too much. But in reality, the PM’s speech is nothing short of a resounding call to action. It reflects our country’s unwavering commitment to address climate change, and establishes the United Kingdom as a global leader in environmental stewardship. The recognition that we have achieved the fastest rate of emissions reduction in the world underscores our dedication to this cause. As we embrace the multifaceted challenges that lie ahead, we have a vision that provides a clear roadmap, ensuring we can deliver a new environmental policy for the public while also creating economic stability to attract further investment and resources. With resolute determination, innovation, and global cooperation, we can and will face these challenges and deliver a cleaner, greener future for all.