Johnson's 'green industrial revolution' promises a lot, but is it enough?

Maud Webster analyses Boris Johnson's new Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and considers whether it's enough to reach net-zero

Maud Webster
30th November 2020

Boris Johnson appears to have taken a break from failing to control the COVID-19 pandemic to release a new environmental strategy in the hopes of achieving a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ by 2030. These ten targets, arguably the most ‘concrete’ of the governments’ plans to address the climate crisis this year, focus on making industry more sustainable.  

The press release comments: “the Prime Minister’s blueprint will allow the UK to forge ahead with eradicating its contribution to climate change by 2050, particularly crucial in the run up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.”

Johnson solidifies his attitude that making money must come first

The headline on the government’s website immediately irks me - “PM outlines his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution for 250,000 jobs. As with their approach to lockdown, and stances on social issues like free school meals, the Tories response has been to centre their policies around the economy, profit and employment. Further, by choosing to publish his opinion piece on the strategy in the Financial Times, Johnson solidifies his attitude towards solving anything: boosting industry and making money must come first.

Whilst the ten points would make a huge impact on halting environmental damage in industry especially, critics are sceptical that they will be enough to reach the net-zero emissions - required to erase our contribution to climate change - by 2050.

With this in mind, let’s survey Johnson’s ten points:

  1. Offshore wind: The plan commences with an endeavour to produce enough offshore wind energy to power every home by 2030. 
  2. Hydrogen: Johnson hopes to generate a 5GW production capacity of hydrogen, alongside an interesting aim to establish the first town globally heated exclusively by hydrogen by the end of this decade.
  3. Nuclear: The conservatives place importance on nuclear as a clean energy source, hoping to advance reactors on both a small and larger scale. 
  4. Electric vehicles: As Johnson stresses in his article for the FT, all points in his strategy will both include and benefit citizens all over the country - perhaps consciously, as the government has historically been criticised for appearing too London-centric. The press statement notes how the government will back “our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles”.
  5. Public transport, cycling and walking: The plan aims to develop better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, to make these modes of transport more attractive, as well as investing in zero-emission public transport. 
  6. Greener planes and ships: Johnson comments in his piece for the FT on the catchy ‘Jet Zero’, “we will strive to repeat the feat of Jack Alcock and Teddie Brown, who achieved the first nonstop transatlantic flight a century ago, with a zero emission plane”. He also promises the same achievement for ships. 
  7. Homes and public buildings: Making residences and public service buildings more energy efficient and overall greener. A “target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028” is also mentioned.
  8. Carbon capture: Johnson aims to make the UK a world-leader in technology to capture and store CO2, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, ensuring this doesn’t enter the atmosphere.
  9. Nature: The plan elaborates on protecting and restoring the natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, and also re-wilding huge areas of countryside.
  10. Innovation and finance: The concluding point envelops all these targets together, with the conservatives hope to achieve these progressive ambitions through the development of new, cutting-edge technologies and a mission to make the City of London “the global centre of green finance”.
The plan puts emphasis on making walking and cycling more attractive modes of transport
Image: Matthew Waring on Unsplash

It would be an incredible triumph if these ten points prevail and are achieved in the next decade. But as the government often finds itself distracted by other crises such as the pandemic, and another two parliamentary terms have the potential to disrupt these targets in the meantime, I am sceptical that many, if any, will be realised; and, even then, there remains the question of whether this will be sufficient to reach net zero emissions.

Featured Image: Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/22 academic year

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