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Environment

How the government’s net zero strategy will affect you

To tackle climate change, the government has pledged net zero emissions by 2050. This is how they plan to pull it off.

The UK government has released its net zero strategy, a policy document outlining the steps the country will take to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

Covering everything from nature restoration to home heating and electricity, the policies will touch every area of life in the UK as the country undergoes a “green transition” to avoid environmental catastrophe. 

That means how you get to work, where you work, how your home is heated and even what your city looks like may all change during the next decade. 

At over 300 pages long, the policy document is lengthy, so we’ve picked out the top five takeaways and how they’ll change your home, your finances and the way you live. 

Public transport and electric cars

Earlier this year, the government announced that by 2035, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned. 

The net zero strategy confirmed this commitment, adding that by 2035 all cars must be fully zero- emissions capable, while car manufacturers will be obliged to sell a certain number of electric vehicles every year. 

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Manufacturers will be awarded £250m to help build more electric vehicles, and a £2bn pot will be awarded to enable half of all journeys in towns and cities to be carried out by cycling or walking. 

A funding pot of £3bn will also be poured into the UK’s bus network, including more bus lanes, better integrated systems and thousands of new zero-emissions buses.

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How will this affect me? 

Funding for electric charging infrastructure will likely mean more charging points cropping up on your street for residential use. 

By 2035, you’ll no longer be able to buy a new diesel or petrol car, and your existing one must be “zero emissions capable”, though it’s not yet clear how this will be measured or how car owners will be supported to achieve this.

It’s also unclear whether any financial incentives will be offered to encourage people to switch to electric cars. 

Plans to roll out electric buses, walking schemes and improvements to rail infrastructure may mean improved or increased services in your local area. 

Heating your home 

Alongside the net zero strategy, the government released its long-delayed “heat and buildings strategy”.

This strategy outlines how the government plans to decarbonise the UK’s building stock, which is currently responsible for almost a fifth of the country’s carbon emissions. 

This is largely down to “leaky homes” which are poorly insulated and thus require more energy —, and more carbon —, to heat. 

The government has proposed grants of £5,000 to encourage homeowners and landlords to replace gas boilers with eco-friendly alternatives like heat pumps.

Funding has also been pledged to decarbonise social housing. 

The government will ban the sale of new gas boilers after 2035 and has announced funding of £1.425 billion for public sector decarbonisation, with the aim of reducing emissions from public sector buildings by 75 per cent% by 2037.

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How will this affect me? 

If you are a property owner, you’ll be able to apply for the heat pump grant from 2022, while tenants in social or privately-rented properties may have their boiler replaced by an eco-friendly alternative in the coming years.

Having your boiler replaced by a more sustainable alternative will likely mean lower energy bills over time. 

One thing that isn’t clear is whether the government has plans to help insulate properties which have low energy efficiency ratings.

Without upgrading these homes and making them less leaky, installing technologies like heat pumps will be counterproductive.

Clean electricity

The net zero strategy contains a commitment to moving the UK away from using fossil fuels for electricity entirely by 2035. 

Renewables will play a significant role in achieving this target, including plans for creating 40GWh (gigawatt hours) of offshore wind power by 2030. For context, the UK produced 75,610GWh of electricity from offshore and onshore wind combined in 2020. According to the Office for National Statistics, this is enough electricity to power 8.4 trillion LED light bulbs.

There will also be more solar and onshore wind power sites and an expansion of the UK’s he nuclear power capacity, with plans for at least one large new nuclear plant by 2024.

A new £120m fund has been earmarked for new technologies and Wylfa, in north Wales, has been named as one potential site.

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How will this affect me?

Renewable energy is much cheaper to produce than the energy we currently extract from fossil fuels. This means a transition to renewable energy could mean cheaper energy bills in the future.

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, reliance on the gas market for energy can lead to huge fluctuations in price for consumers when supply is low.

Moving to renewable energy means that we’ll no longer be tied to this volatile market. 

Building more wind and solar farms is also likely to create a number of green jobs in roles like engineering, construction and maintenance. 

A long-running standoff about the construction of nuclear plant Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast suggests, however, that nuclear power may be less welcome in local communities. 

Locals and charities have expressed alarm that the facility will destroy local wildlife, including millions of fish. 

More nuclear power facilities also means more nuclear waste, and the government has not yet made it clear where they plan to store this waste.

Nature 

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. To address this, the net zero strategy includes commitments to restoring biodiversity and natural resources.

The government has committed to planting at least 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year, while farmers will be incentivized to switch to low-carbon farming practices.

Peat is a key natural resource for storing carbon, and the government has pledged funding of £750m by 2025 on peat restoration, woodland creation and management.

Approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England will be restored by 2050.

How will this affect me?

Tree planting schemes are likely to accelerate in the coming years, meaning you may gain more woodland cover in your local area. 

The government’s pledges on nature also address waste, pledging to try and eliminate “biodegradable municipal waste” – i.e. food waste – from landfill by 2028.

With funding from the government, your local authority may start collecting food waste for free from your home alongside regular recycling from 2025.

Industry

The government has pledged to decarbonise industry across the UK by “supporting industry to switch to cleaner fuels; helping them improve their resource and energy efficiency, and through fair carbon pricing to drive deep decarbonisation of industry.”

By 2030, the strategy says that up to 54,000 jobs in industry will be supported.

By the same date, the government plans to deliver four carbon capture usage and storage “clusters” in different parts of the country. 

How will this affect me?

The government has marked out Teesside and the Humber, Merseyside and North Wales, and the North East of Scotland as areas which will be initially targeted for development of green jobs and infrastructure. 

Even if you don’t live in these areas but already work in industry, you’ll likely see transformations at work as part of the switch to cleaner fuels and efforts to decarbonise. 

It’s not yet clear how or if the government intends to help workers in the most polluting industries (like oil and gas) retrain in the coming years.

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