U.K. Heat Strategy Pushed to September as Climate Pressure Grows
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s long-promised strategy for reducing carbon emissions from heating drafty homes will be published next month, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, as the government gears up to host a key climate change summit in the fall.
During a media round on Monday, Kwarteng suggested the so-called heat and buildings strategy may include a plan for phasing out gas boilers. He also said he’s in talks with the Treasury about the possibility of a carbon tax to make polluters pay for their emissions, as well as incentives for homeowners to make their buildings more energy efficient.
The plans will be an integral part of the U.K.’s push to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as part of global efforts to fight climate change. That target will come under greater scrutiny after a UN report Monday warned global warming since industrial times will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades without drastic steps to eliminate greenhouse gases.
The heat and buildings strategy “will set out a number of options,” Kwarteng told BBC radio, including “in terms of the phase out of gas boilers -- if that’s the policy.” Asked about making emitters pay, Kwarteng said the U.K. already has an emissions trading program, but added: “You can also go down a carbon tax route, and these policies we’re discussing with the Treasury.”
While the U.K. was concluding the Brexit process, ministers had debated replacing the European Union’s emissions trading system with either a domestic program of emissions trading or a carbon tax, before ultimately opting for a continuation of emissions trading. Yet Kwarteng’s comment suggests there are still active discussions in government on the issue.
Kwarteng also told Sky News “there’s every chance” the U.K. achieves the “challenging” target of net zero emissions by 2050. “I think we are on track.”
The U.K. is trying to build momentum ahead of the UN climate talks, known as COP26, in Glasgow in November, with the goal of putting the world on a pathway to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.
Kwarteng acknowledged the key heat strategy had been delayed from March, in order to try to coordinate the plan with the broader net zero strategy -- both of which he said would be published in September.
Buildings account for about 17% of national emissions, mainly due to heating, and for the past decade successive administrations have tried -- and failed -- to bring in policies to reduce them in any substantial way. A green homes grant was scrapped this year, less than a year after its launch.
“I’m very keen that something equivalent to it is brought back to encourage owner occupiers to take the steps to decarbonize their houses, and that’s something I’m speaking to the chancellor about,” Kwarteng told the BBC.
He also hinted that heat pumps will form part of the strategy to replace gas boilers, saying “once you’ve made a very clear indication as a government that that’s the way you want to go, then suppliers will invest in producing heat pumps and will be able to produce them at a much cheaper cost.” The retail price would be considerably lower than 10,000 pounds ($13,860), he said.
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