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Action plan needed to fight the war on climate change

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

3 min read

Baroness Young of Old Scone, Chair of the Labour Climate and Environment Forum and former Chair of the Woodland Trust, sets out what the new government needs to focus on for the United Kingdom to reach its net-zero goals

As we sat in the rain during one of the wettest ever springs in the UK, the heat build up in the rest of Europe was already beginning. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the impacts of climate change on our everyday lives locally and globally. These extremes of weather are trends not blips.

So, there is a real need to ramp up the urgency of action post-election to ensure the path to net-zero happens to target.

“There is a real need to ramp up the urgency of action post-election to ensure the path to net-zero happens to target”

Post-election energy policy needs to have some key strands at its heart. The faster the pace of transition, the greater the need to ensure that the transition is fair and doesn’t penalise families and communities already hammered by high energy bills. Pump-priming private investment through government investment needs to happen quickly with a focus on ramping up supplies of renewables, and the review of planning policy to enable schemes to progress quicker needs to be fast and effective, while not trashing biodiversity and the countryside in the process.

Nature-based solutions, including a faster pace on greening agriculture and land use, the planting of the right trees in the right place and the protection and extension of our peatlands are an important part of the package. I was personally pleased to see how many of the manifestos recognised that a land use framework for England is a vital underpinning. Such a framework could support the myriad national and local dialogues that will have to take place around the best combinations of land use to enable the pace of transition to quicken if local communities are not to feel done to rather than done with.

We need to sort out the ability of the grid to support faster renewables development. It simply won’t work if the grid says no to connections of community energy schemes and larger developments. For domestic energy customers, the propaganda against heat pumps needs to be revealed for what it is, propaganda. Let’s focus on enabling combined packages of retrofit of insulation and pumps for the big proportion of domestic properties where that will be simple, affordable and effective, rather than focusing on the scare stories of cowboy installers and systems that simply don’t provide enough heat.

In transport, a just transition needs to cut through the campaign of disinformation around the widespread introduction of electric vehicles. Support to local authorities to provide further charging infrastructure is important, particularly for those that are behind the curve. The electric vehicle mandate on manufacturers to convert their car offer to primarily electric needs to continue and hold fast to the 2030 deadline. Costs of electric vehicles are coming down but not fast enough and there needs to be effective monitoring and management of the emergent second-hand vehicle market to support those of us who rely on access to cheaper second-hand vehicles.

All of this will need skills, re-skills and jobs, technology growth to replace outdated fossil fuel solutions, giving us exportable business opportunities and lower costs and greater energy security in a troubled world. Above all it needs an action plan, closely coordinated and expertly driven. We know what is needed, implementation of a war plan for the urgent war on climate change now. I, for one, am excited to be part of this.

This article was originally published in The Path To Net Zero supplement circulated alongside The House magazine. To find out more visit The Path To Net Zero hub.

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