The government has set out its agenda in the Queen’s Speech, reiterating its commitment to the 2050 net zero target.
The speech, on 19 December, assured the government would continue to take steps to meet its “world-leading target” while leading the way in tackling global climate change. Hosting the COP26 summit in 2020 will form part of this. Elsewhere, it signalled an increase to tax credits for research and development to support business, along with the establishment of a National Skills Fund and a promise to overhaul business rates.
The speech also committed to an Environment Bill, with supporting documents revealing that this would aim to establish new long-term domestic environmental governance based on environment principles; introduce a comprehensive framework for legally-binding targets, including for air pollution; deliver a long-term plan to deliver environmental improvements; and introduce a new Office for Environmental Protection. The bill would also increase local powers to address sources of air pollution, while handing government powers to mandate recalls of vehicles that do not meet legal emission standards.
On climate change, the government pledged to build on progress made with an “ambitious programme of policy and investment”, stressing that its first Budget will prioritise the environment. This will involve investment in carbon capture, offshore wind, nuclear energy and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. With regards to energy efficiency, it pledged to invest £9.2bn for homes, schools and hospitals; committed to increasing ambition on offshore wind to 40GW by 2030, as well as enabling new floating turbines; and said that £800mn will be invested to build the first fully deployed carbon capture storage (CCS) cluster by the mid-2020s, with £500mn to help energy intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques.
A National Infrastructure Strategy will be published alongside the first Budget, setting out further details of the government’s plan to invest £100bn in transforming the country’s infrastructure. This will have addressing the critical challenges posed by climate change and building on the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050 as one of its key aims, while also provide the government’s formal response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 National infrastructure Assessment.
The government also sought to signal its commitment to the environment through its Agriculture Bill, stating that through this, it will look to replace the current subsidy system for farmers that pays them on the total amount of land farmed to reward them for the work they do to enhance the environment.