As we begin another brand new year in this pivotal decade for climate change, there’s no question that the pressure is on for the UK to take decisive action to tackle the climate crisis. That pressure is something that probably a lot of government ministers can acutely appreciate, with widespread expectations on them not just to make more stringent climate commitments, but – crucially – actually deliver on them. With that in mind, are seven key policies that we’d recommend keeping an eye on this year; not just for their implications for commercial solar panels, but also the nation and even the world at large.
1. The Resources and Waste Strategy
The Resources and Waste Strategy was first introduced in 2018, and turned heads for being the first major policy shake-up in this area for more than ten whole years. It encompasses a range of measures designed to increase our national efficiency and reduce the waste produced across the country. These measures include a national deposit return scheme, and suggestions for increasing food waste collections. It also makes changes extended producer responsibility requirements.
The initial consultations were due to start a few years ago, but as with countless other things, were delayed by the pandemic, instead ultimately beginning in 2021. The Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says that it might be 2024 at the earliest before a UK deposit scheme launches, as things stand. We won’t have to wait quite as long for a weekly UK-wide food collection service; it’s slated to begin in 2023.
DEFRA’s second progress report on the Resources and Waste Strategy was published in November 2021, so expect further consultations and decisions to be made throughout 2022.
2. Environment Bill
Another one delayed by the pandemic, one of the key aims of the Environment Bill is “to support the delivery of the UK’s 25-year plan for the environment, and clarify how environmental protection frameworks will operate with Brexit now in effect. The Environment Bill was finally given Royal Assent in November of last year, after a lengthy process spanning more than 2 years. There were hopes that it would include stronger provisions, but many people are simply happy that it actually exists.
In tandem with the certification of the Environment Bill, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has also successfully become an independent entity. Ministers originally wanted it active in the summer of 2021, and although that didn’t quite happen, the process was completed only a few months later in November. As things stand, it’s worth keeping an eye out for DEFRA’s proposals for legally binding targets on waste, water, air quality and biodiversity.
3. Skills Strategy
This is a bit of a thorny one at the moment. To give you some background on the Skills Strategy hubbub, basically the government has claimed it will create 2 million green jobs by 2030 according to its notably controversial Net-Zero Strategy. When that was first published, the experts on the Environmental Audit Committee were quick to point out that it only actually detailed about 440,000 green jobs, far short of the 2 million figure touted by ministers.
The EAC also noted that there’s still significant vagueness around exactly what qualifies a job as ‘green’, which casts doubt on the government’s ability to credibly lay claim to that 2 million figure. This time last year, the government published its Skills for Jobs White Paper, which was also widely considered to be a bit light on detail.
Now, all eyes are on the government for an update to the Skills Strategy in 2022, preferably one that properly accounts for the need for changing skills as the UK makes fresh strides towards delivering on its climate and nature goals.
4. Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for Education
If you were following the coverage of COP26 back in November 2021, you might have seen the UK Education Minister Nadhim Nahawi deliver a draft Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for schools, emphasising a greater focus on sustainability in both the curriculum, and revitalise the school sites themselves. Under current plans, by 2023 children will be learning even more about biodiversity, and the impact of human activity on the environment. Throughout this year, we should be hearing more about the development of those plans and how the government will help schools to achieve them – including teacher training programmes, and decarbonising school sites.
5. National Food Strategy
The National Food Strategy primarily concerns itself with the food system’s current negative impacts on the environment (not to mention public health). Last year the government commissioned an independent review, which ultimately brought us the National Food Strategy in 2021. It contains a range of recommendations, including details on how to deliver a 33% reduction in red meat and dairy consumption this decade, as well as plans on how to encourage farmers to “conserve and restore” nature through the Agriculture Bill. The government has yet to issue a full response to the original report – despite sustained calls to do so. We should see it later this year.
6. Plans for meeting new energy targets
You may recall that back in October, Boris Johnson confirmed plans to end unabated fossil-fuelled electricity generation by 2035. The UK has already committed to end coal use for electricity by 2040, so this latest ambition is mainly concerned with natural gas. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that in order to achieve this goal, it will be focusing its energies on supporting home-grown nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage – and, of course, wind and solar. Watch this space for more updates in 2022.
7. Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
This is a relatively recent measure that’s already gained the backing of more than 110 local authorities, and around 120 MPs. If it’s successfully passed into law, it has the power to completely change how the UK evaluates its carbon footprint, both domestically and overseas, in its calculations for achieving Net Zero. This encompasses international aviation and shipping, as well as goods and services – all of which is important because the WWF says that some 45% of the UK’s overall emissions footprint actually falls outside its borders. The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill had its second reading in 2021, and we can expect to see a sustained push for more signatories in 2022.
You’re all up to date for now! We’ll be keeping a close eye on these stories ourselves here at Low Carbon Energy, and we’ll keep you posted of any critical updates right here on our blog. Whatever happens though, you can count on one thing – there’s never been a better time to make your business more sustainable. In an age where CSR and ESG become increasingly important yardsticks by which a business is judged, commercial solar panels can provide not just huge savings on your energy bills, but even a valuable edge over your competitors.
That’s exactly where we can help here at Low Carbon. Our experts have over 30 years of combined experience, having helped SMEs and large corporations across a wide variety of sectors transform their business’ energy supply. Each of our installations is bespoke, and we tailor your solution on your specific energy profile, helping us to maximise carbon reductions and save you up to thousands of pounds in energy bills. Feel free to look at our case studies for just a few examples of businesses which have reaped huge rewards from solar, such as Boeing and M&I Materials. To find out how we can help you, feel free to give us a call today on 01282 421 489!