The UK government has belatedly published its Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out how it aims to meet its legal obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. Clean growth is defined in the report as growing national income while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The report first sets out the successes that the UK has already had in meeting climate change targets before exploring future policies. The report brings attention to the fact that the percentage of electricity that is low carbon is double that of 2010 at 47 percent, and that England recycles approximately four times as much as in 2000.

Highlights of the strategy include:

  • £2.5bn invested in low carbon innovation from 2015-2021;
  • Ban on sales of combustion engine vehicles beginning in 2040;
  • £1bn supporting the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles, including helping consumers to overcome the upfront cost of an electric car; and
  • Investing £1.2bn to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys.

The document is focused on harnessing the economy to reduce carbon emissions to a greater degree than the Carbon Plan, published in 2011. The economic opportunities that exist in the move to cleaner energy are described by Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy as "one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time."

Despite this, many of the strategies are vague, for example to "Explore new and innovative ways manage emissions from landfill." It is important, therefore, to note that this is not a collection of fully considered policies, but rather a broad signal of the UK government's intention to push forward with projects that are proactive in their aim to combat climate change whilst benefiting the economy, a trend likely motivated by the wide-ranging success of the off-shore wind industry in the UK.

The strategy has been criticized by some pressure groups, including ClientEarth who argue that the strategy "fails to put us on track to meet legally binding emission targets," missing them by 116MtCo2e (or 53 percent versus a 57 percent target). ClientEarth is considering its legal options—any such challenge would likely be centered on sections 13-14 of the Climate Change Act 2008, which state that the government must enter into polices that allow the carbon budgets to be met and report on these policies. The UK government could, however, argue either that the unquantified portion of the strategy will allow them to meet their targets or that they could rely on mechanisms contained within the Climate Change Act. Such mechanisms include the purchase of international offsets, or offsetting current surpluses or deficits against those in past or future budgets.

This author would like to thank Michael J. Fernando for his assistance in writing this article.

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