CBI urges government to move fast on EV, emissions and green recovery

The Confederation of British Industry has called for much faster, bolder and broader moves from the Government on the green recovery.

The CBI recently launched the “Green Recovery Roadmap” at its first virtual conference on net zero plans, focusing on a range of crucial technologies that need more support.

The CBI’s roadmap outlines six priorities:

  • Accelerating the delivery of electric vehicle charging points and funding battery manufacturing
  • Deliver jobs and energy savings by retrofitting homes and buildings to be more energy efficient and switch to low-carbon heating. And for Government to publish its Heat and Buildings Strategy
  • Lifting the cap on auctions for renewable power and introducing for new nuclear capacity
  • Becoming a leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology
  • Spending at least £1 billion on testing hydrogen programmes and encouraging the production of hydrogen
  • £500 million of government cash (with matched private funding) to support the UK’s first commercial sustainable fuel plant and create an Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels to secure the development of low-carbon alternatives

There is a growing sense of impatience in the business community represented by the CBI and a frustration that government ideas and speeches for the green recovery and the move to net zero are not translating into detailed policies and plans.

Britain’s biggest business group has its mind also on the UK being host to the UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, and is keen to see words translated into coherent and effective actions to reduce carbon emissions to a balanced zero by 2050.

Climate blueprint

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, welcomed the Government’s often expressed intent to deliver on the UK’s net zero goal but that “action speaks a thousand times louder than words”.

She said:

“Business has been promised and is waiting for the government’s climate blueprint – the Energy White Paper, National Infrastructure Strategy, as well as plans for the decarbonisation of transport, heat and buildings.

“Enabling firms to strike ahead with their investment plans for a net-zero future with confidence – there’s no more powerful way to unlock private investment for the UK and set the agenda and pace of COP26 negotiations.”

The director-general said that the UK was in “pole position to lead the world in green tech” such as hydrogen and Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), but that business needs the policy certainty and incentives from Government to help lay the foundations for a strong, sustainable future.

She said:

“For so many, this feels like a time of fiercely competing goals. The world faces two seemingly separate yet fundamental problems – Covid-19, the biggest health crisis in living memory, and climate change – the defining challenge of the modern era.

“But they are not separate. The response to one affects success on the other. And the defining question is, how does the UK use this moment to rebuild our economy and the greener and stronger world we want to return to?”

The CBI roadmap’s appeal for urgent nationwide investment in EV charging points and funding for a UK-based gigafactory battery facility to boost demand for electric mobility clearly demonstrates the central role EV will play on the road to net zero.

And it sees a Contracts for Difference-style (CfD) auction to deliver the £1 billion government funding for hydrogen testing programmes.

Economic benefits

The roadmap advises that the Government’s Project Speed is good base for accelerating infrastructure deployment and could be used to drive faster investment in low-carbon and resilient infrastructure.

It says:

“Action taken now will not only set us on a path to net-zero but will also help secure the myriad of economic benefits that can be secured through investment in low-carbon technologies and services. Bold decisions are needed, with opportunities at hand to remove regulatory barriers and speed up planning processes.”

The Government has launched the £3 billion energy efficiency upgrade programme, as well as a range of multi-million pound initiatives to increase investment in areas such as smart manufacturing, green aviation R&D, electric vehicle development, and others.

But there was some consternation last week when Business Secretary Alok Sharma declined to confirm that the national climate action plan, due for submission to the UN under the Paris Agreement, would be completed this year.

The CBI director-general said:

“As COP26 chair and holder of the G7 presidency next year, the UK has a unique opportunity to prove itself a global climate leader post-Brexit. Securing ambitious international commitments and taking action towards our own net-zero transition.

“Not just for the UK, but through our global leadership, beyond our shores as well… a to-do list for this generation to pass on a better world to the next.”

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