Government will invest £1bn in ‘sucking’ carbon out of industrial plants

Ministers also pledge £1.3bn for electric vehicle charging points, as energy plan unveiled

Adam Forrest
Monday 14 December 2020 12:13
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Boris Johnson - Climate crisis ‘far more destructive than coronavirus’

Boris Johnson’s government is to invest £1bn in carbon capture and storage (CCS) schemes aimed at “sucking” harmful CO2 emissions out of industrial plants and trapping them underground.

The carbon capture technology will be installed at four major industrial sites in the UK by 2030 as part of a plan to create a series of low-carbon “clusters” in the decade ahead.

Many experts believe carbon capture is an essential part of tackling the climate emergency, but the technology remains new, expensive and largely untested. Once CO2 has been captured, it can be compressed and pumped underground to be stored in depleted oil and gas reservoirs.

The announcement comes as the government publishes its energy white paper, which outlines proposals to create 220,000 jobs in the next 10 years.

The white paper pledges £1.3bn to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle charging points, and also outlines a plan to develop 40 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

Consumers will be automatically switched to cheaper tariffs for their energy bills under a proposed crackdown on “loyalty penalties”. Millions of households in the UK are believed to be stuck on standard variable tariffs, likely paying more than they need to.

The proposed legislation is aimed at generating emission-free electricity by 2050. Business and energy secretary Alok Sharma promised a “decisive and permanent” shift away from the UK’s current dependence on fossil fuels.

“Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come,” he said.

Despite hopes gas boilers could soon be phased out, manufacturers will still be able to sell the fossil fuel-dependent heating system for homes for up to 15 years. The white paper states that by “the mid-2030s” the government expects all newly-installed heating systems to be low carbon.

The white paper will also include measures on establishing a new UK emissions trading scheme from 1 January, which the government claimed would be more ambitious than the current EU scheme it replaces. “It will be the world’s first net-zero carbon cap and trade market,” the government said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Mr Johnson’s government will begin talks with EDF Energy over the construction of a new £20bn nuclear power plant.

It confirmed negotiations are taking place with the firm over the Sizewell C site in Suffolk, which could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity – enough to provide 7 per cent of the UK’s energy demands.

Mr Johnson, co-hosting the virtual UN climate ambition summit on Saturday, warned that climate change was ultimately far more destructive than the Covid pandemic.

But the prime minister could not resist a joke about climate campaigners, saying he was not a “mung-bean munching eco freak” despite supporting green policies. 

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