While the US and EU urgently prioritise green growth, research by the House of Commons Library indicates the UK is falling behind.
In what is being coined the “global green race”, with superpower nations rapidly increasing their investments, the UK’s investments in the energy transition fell sharply last year by 10% from $31bn to $28bn, from 2021 to 2022. Comparatively, the US increased by 24% to $141bn, and in Germany by 17% to $55bn. This will continue to increase under the US’s Inflation Reduction Act, which plans or a $369bn expansion of low carbon efforts.
The transition away from fossil fuels has dramatically increased in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with EU investment in green energy rising from 26bn last year to 180bn (both public and private investment). The findings are drawn from a study commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.
In recent years, the UK’s renewable energy landscape has been a complicated one. Although offshore wind has grown significantly, due to legislation changes in 2015, onshore wind has been practically impossible to build in the UK.
Solar wind panels have also had comparatively low adoption, with the UK refusing to enforce solar panels as a requirement for new buildings.
The recent government initiative “Energy Security Day” rolled out on rocky ground – originally launched as “green day” but then rebranded. The new title did not come with any new funding however, with £20bn over 20 years allocated to carbon capture and storage technology, which has been questioned by scientists.
“The government’s claims of being world leaders in the energy transition are in tatters. This data lays bare their neglect of our vital net zero goals, and failure to insulate us from the next energy crisis,” said Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate representative. She went on to label the government’s current efforts a “dereliction of duty”.
“While other nations are facilitating major investment into the key industries of the future, our government is content to sit back and watch them race ahead. The result will be a lack of energy security, higher energy bills, and the continuing failure to hit our climate targets.”
“It is clearer than ever that we need to facilitate major new investment. Instead, the government is repackaging old announcements to give the appearance that they are taking action” said Hobhouse.
She is calling for a £150bn public investment programme to support the UK’s legally binding target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This includes development of green technologies.
The Department of Energy and Security did hit back at the claims, saying that “Selective analysis of figures in this way is misleading. As home to the first, second, third and fourth largest operational offshore wind farms in the world, backed by £198bn of investment into low-carbon sectors since 2010, our record speaks for itself.”
“The government is continuing to back clean energy, including the first state backing of a nuclear project in over 30 years in Sizewell C. Last month, we unveiled our Powering Up Britain plans to help us further deliver affordable, clean, homegrown power.”
However, “Powering Up Britain” has been an extremely controversial initiative. The UK government lost a legal battle to green campaign groups over the content of the strategy, with the High Court ruling it unlawful and forcing the government to revise the contents. After releasing a revised version, they are facing a second round of legal action, with calls that it is still inadequate and not compliant with legally binding obligations.
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