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Green efforts: a look at latest environmental updates and policies from the UK government

The current UK government’s environmental plan - “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” was announced in November 2020 by Boris Johnson. This plan outlines measures aimed at making the UK a leader in clean energy, electric vehicles, and low-carbon hydrogen production, among other initiatives to tackle climate change and protect the environment.

One of the points is offshore wind – the UK will aim to generate enough offshore wind power to supply every home in the country by 2030.

Offshore wind 

On 27 January 2023, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered a growth plan speech which highlighted the current achievement of offshore wind in the UK. The UK currently hosts the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Hornsea 2, and it is targeting 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.

The Chancellor said: "The UK is a world leader here, with the largest offshore wind farm in the world…last year we were able to generate an incredible 40 percent of our electricity from renewables. On one day, on a rather windy December 30th, we actually got 60 percent of our electricity from renewables, mainly wind.”

The Chancellor called for the Conservative Party to replicate the success of offshore wind for existing technologies and interventions; for more funding for less mature technologies; for planning reform and for careful consideration of plans to sunset EU laws post-Brexit.

Renewable and Nuclear Power

The Ten Points Plan also sets goals for renewable and nuclear power. At the Chancellor’s keynote speech at Bloomberg's European headquarters in London, he hailed the UK's renewable energy industry as a "big growth area", and he spoke of a $1trn market opportunity between now and 2030.

He highlighted the Government’s recent decision to give the green light for the Sizewell C nuclear power plant and to take a larger stake, as it works to bridge the ‘nuclear gap’ and ensure that 25% of UK electricity generation is nuclear by mid-century.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s budget next month, five of the clean energy industry’s largest British trade bodies (RenewableUK, Energy UK, Scottish Renewables, the Nuclear Industry Association and Solar Energy UK) have written to him and set out the sector invests around £13bn each year and returns around £30bn in gross value directly, plus a further £100bn in gross value through supply chains and partnerships.

As the UK is working towards 100% clean energy by 2035, the figure should be greater in the coming years. However, it is also dependent of the joined-up action from the government.

Environmental Improvement Plan

Five years ago, the government publishes the 25 Year Environment Plan (“25YEP”) set out our vision for a quarter-of-a-century of action to help the natural world regain and retain good health. To achieve its vision, the 25YEP set ten goals:

  • Clean air
  • Clean and plentiful water
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards
  • Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently
  • Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change
  • Minimising waste
  • Managing exposure to chemicals
  • Enhancing biosecurity

As the first revision of the 25 YEP, the UK Government has published its long-awaited Environmental Improvement Plan (“EIP”) on Tuesday (31 January). The EIP builds on the 25YEP with a new plan setting out a five-year delivery plan to restore nature and improve the environmental quality of the air, waters, and land. One thing worth noting is that the EIP includes a new commitment that everyone should live within 15 minutes’ walk of a green or blue space.

The apex goal of the EIP is to improve the nature. At UN Nature Summit COP15, the UK government agreed a new Global Biodiversity Framework, with 23 global targets, including 30% of global land and 30% of the global ocean to be protected by 2030.

The EIP also connects environmental goals from 25YEP together and aims to improve environmental quality, our use of resources, our mitigation of climate change, our biosecurity and the beauty of nature to thrive plants and wildlife and enhance beauty, heritage, and engagement with the natural environment.

While welcoming the aspirations, the delivery EIP will require long-term government funding and legislation, such as reflecting the environmental commitment in the Levelling Up Bill to ensure we meet the environmental targets and our goals in 25YEP.

Melody Li works within Irwin Mitchell's Planning and Environment Team.