'We need an emergency 10-year programme to upgrade insulation in every home and to ensure new homes are built to zero-carbon standards'
Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrats’ Climate Change, Women and Equalities Spokesperson and MP for Bath
Just over one year ago the Prime Minister published his Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution. Looking back, although some progress has been made, it’s safe to say that the UK is falling behind on climate action.
As funding for key parts of HS2 are slashed, the Government must not let their foot off the (electrically charged) pedal. Delaying the urgent action that we need and deliberately keeping the fossil fuel industry going as business as usual is a catastrophic failure in climate action.
Admittedly, some progress has been made on electric vehicles and the latest Budget allocated some funding to nature projects. Shockingly, however, the Chancellor in his budget speech didn’t mention climate change once.
Grants for electric vehicles have been cut, making it more expensive to change to a clean vehicle and there is a desperate need for investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.
Greener buildings was a key facet of the Ten Point Plan yet action on creating greener buildings is flailing. This was demonstrated in the Heat and Building Strategy which was delayed three times and falls woefully short of the funding needed for energy-efficiency improvements and low-carbon installations across the country.
We need a clear direction of how our existing homes will be heated without relying on toxic fossil fuels ripped out from the ground.
In this strategy, no new policies for insulating existing homes were put forward.
Funding for heat pumps will cover just 30,000 installations a year which barely scratches the surface of what is needed.
We need an emergency 10-year programme to upgrade insulation in every home and to ensure new homes are built to zero-carbon standards, with renewable energy generated within the community.
The Hydrogen Strategy, another key tenet, was published earlier this year but risks lumping the cost on consumers, burdening poorer households.
Moreover, the Government is unlikely to deliver on the target for hitting zero emission buses by 2025 unless further measures are introduced.
The Transport Decarbonisation Plan committed no new funding for zero emission vehicles., although admittedly there was some progress in setting a date to phase out new diesel HGVs and offering emission reduction pathways for some transport.
One glaring failure is plans to decarbonise aviation with the Chancellor slashing Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights. It’s inconceivable that any plan to decarbonise flying does not include plans to limit the number of flights taken. The chances of meeting Net Zero look slimmer and slimmer.
Finally, it is incomprehensible that the Government has allowed oil exploration to go through in Scotland and Surrey. There is a global consensus that reaching Net Zero can only be done if fossil fuels are left in the ground.
The plan needs to be refreshed with a greater emphasis on local authority funding and a commitment to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
We need a radically new approach. The Lib Dems have put forward a clear plan to build the green economy that we so desperately need.
Following COP26, the Paris Agreement’s targets are left clinging to the edge of a cliff. Strong and decisive leadership is now needed to renew the Ten Point Plan with more ambitious action.
The Government’s refusal to join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is also deeply disappointing – point blank refusing to set an end date for fossil fuel use.
The Lib Dems would introduce a Green Recovery Plan: investing £150 billion over 3 years in insulating homes, green transport, renewable energy, and restoring lost biodiversity, with a green jobs guarantee.
Additionally, we would end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and massively expand our electric vehicle network.
This plan focuses on creating clean air for kids; greening every home; saving the British countryside; switching to green energy; and a transport revolution.
To tackle climate we would also ensure that the air that we breathe is not poisoning young people. We would create safe walking, cycling and public transport routes to schools as part of a £20 billion Clean Air Fund. In Bath, the local council is already leading the way with the Clean Air Zone reducing air pollution in most areas across the city.
A year on from the Ten Point Plan, it’s clear that the Government is delaying and dithering on climate action. We need a more ambitious and radical plan to achieve Net Zero.