British government unveils green spending plans

The British government has rolled out an ambitious spending and investment plan meant to help climate goals set for 2050. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI

Oct. 12 (UPI) — The British government said Thursday it would spend more than $3 billion on new energy systems that could help it meet obligations for a low-carbon economy.

The British government is legally bound to a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are counted as the main contributors to climate change, by 80 percent of their 1990 levels by 2050. The government said Thursday it would invest and spend around $3.1 billion through 2021 on new energy systems, nuclear power and renewable energy strategies to help meet its 2050 target.

British Minister for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry said that emissions last year were 42 percent lower than the 1990 benchmark and 6 percent lower than in 2015. At the same time, British gross domestic product increased 67 percent from 1990.

“On a per person basis, this means that we have reduced emissions faster than any other Group of Seven nation and led the G7 group in growth in national income over the period,” she said in a statement.

The measure drew praise from the fossil fuels industry, which said the strategy was pegged in part to natural gas and the use of carbon, capture and storage, a technique designed to lower emissions from oil and gas production and power plants.

“Natural gas will continue to be a critical fuel for the U.K. in the transition to a low carbon economy,” Ken Cronin, the chief executive of the U.K. Onshore Oil and Gas trade group, said in a statement. “As the report makes clear, the reforming of methane with carbon capture and storage is likely to be the primary means of producing low carbon hydrogen, which has great potential to decarbonize heating, transport and industry and improve air quality.”

About a third of the total spending plan goes toward carbon, capture and storage. To meet the benchmarks outlined in the Paris climate agreement, the International Energy Agency said CCS “will not be optional.”

After the British Parliament backed a measure that gave clarity for the path out of the European Union in September, Buskut Tuncak, a U.N. special envoy on hazardous substances, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that London risks stepping away from some of the highest environmental standards in the world as it leaves the EU.

In July, however, the British government unveiled plans to ban all new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 2040. For power on the British grid, data show the share of electricity generated by renewable resources was 26.6 percent in the first quarter, up 1 percent from the same period last year.

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