Eat or Heat? Net Zero Carbon Britain needs plans, not bans

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Published: 5th November 2021
Area: COP26

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Net Zero Carbon Britain

There is currently a great deal of speculation and chatter circulating in the media regarding Net Zero Carbon Britain and the potential problems the country could encounter between now and  2050. 2050 is the proposed deadline for the UK to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero, and at present there are considerable technological, economic and social obstacles to enable us to achieve this. Equally, while the UK should be applauded for being amongst the leading agents for change, it is important that both industry and consumers alike can afford such change. 

One big issue is whether or not the journey to net zero carbon emissions, together with the current shortages of both power and fuel, will  leave many people facing a throwback to the darkness of the 70s’ three-day working week and “lights out” rules. Could we really be heading towards an “eat or heat” way of living? 

What would cause such a dilemma? 

To accelerate and facilitate change, the government has made it clear that carbon levies will be imposed. Certain commentators are convinced that carbon levies hurt industries in transition, and those costs are passed on to consumers and it is the most needy that feel this increase acutely. 

A net zero carbon economy

Right now, there isn’t much clarity on how this will work. Threats of poverty are starting to emerge in the media and people are panicking at shortages, so what will happen when heating and light become more expensive? 

According to the Financial Times, “Britain has arrived at this spectrum of different carbon prices as a result of history, politics and very little economics. Many governments since the second world war, for example, have seen motorists as an easy target for revenue raising, which is why fuel duties still bring in £28bn a year — almost 3.5 per cent of government receipts — even though they have been frozen for a decade” (Financial Times).   

EVs are becoming more common but they are still expensive to most private consumers. For those who cannot afford an electric or relatively new vehicle, will carbon levies be imposed on their old vehicles or on the public transport systems they use?  

To frack, or not to frack?

Britain’s green activists have made the case that fracking could cause issues such as earthquakes or other disasters. But fracking would enable Britain to source its own gas rather than rely on imports. The impact on the earth could be too much of a risk and could be socially and politically unacceptable. 

Only last week, it was reported in iNews that UK Onshore Oil and Gas has said the energy crisis we currently face is “a bizarre state of affairs” when in fact, the gas lying beneath Northern England and the Midlands would be enough to “meet the UK’s gas demands for 50 years” (iNews).   

Should we therefore use the fossil fuels available whilst the transition is made affordable? There is much to ponder.     

The EV conundrum

Recently, there has been talk of the government withdrawing its grants for electric vehicle manufacturing and purchasing. This would not only cause an indirect carbon levy, but could create a confusing landscape for those investing in R&D in these areas.  

Every driver is expected to have an electric, hybrid, hydrogen or bio-fuelled vehicle by 2030. But what hasn’t been explained, is how this can be brought about on an affordable basis. How will residents of apartment blocks charge their cars? And how will residents of terraced streets with little to no parking arrangements charge theirs?  

There are those seeking to provide such services, but they must be legally enabled to do so. Equally legislation must protect consumers who purchase such goods or services. Furthermore the safety of those working with such goods should be trained and protected by regulatory measures.  

A leading voice in this debate is that of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and traders, the SMMT. They have voiced their view that rather than bans which can create innovative panic, there should be plans formed between government and industries that will lead to targeted innovation and implementation. This is a time when meaningful change can be made to the environment of the country’s citizens, but not at the cost of those consumers who will be adversely affected by carbon levies. 

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To discuss any of the issues covered here contact Edward Flanagan or another member of the green energy team.  

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Eddie works with a highly skilled team to deliver industry-specific advice to the asset finance and leasing sector.

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