Tories pledge ‘green’ funding for electric cars and new forests

An electric car charging point Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The Government is promising to invest up to £1 billion in developing electric cars while planting a million new trees as part of a package to help make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.

On the eve of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, ministers said the measures were the latest step towards delivering a science-led “net zero” in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change.

They include the creation of a new fund to invest up to £1 billion over five years to boost the production of key “green” technologies in the motor industry, including batteries, electric motors, power electronics and hydrogen fuel cells.

Minsters said that as well as helping to achieve the 2050 net zero target, they would create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, high paid jobs.

At the same time, the Government is promising to establish a new Great Northumberland Forest, as well as creating more green spaces across the UK.

It will begin with the planting of three new forests in Northumberland, with up to a million trees between 2020 and 2024, reducing damaging carbon emissions while improving biodiversity.

Ministers are also pledging to support a programme to develop new “pocket parks” – while regenerating existing ones – on small pieces of derelict or undeveloped land in urban areas.

In other measures, the Government is committing £200 million to the initial development phase of the planned nuclear fusion power station which offers the prospect of limitless electrical power with minimal waste from 2040.

The Government has also said it is introducing new home-building standards, improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from 2025.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Addressing climate change is a top priority for the Conservative Party, and today’s announcements will not only help us reach our net zero 2050 target, but will benefit communities and households – and improve wildlife and well-being – while doing so.

“The Conservatives are doing this properly: creating hundreds of thousands of low carbon jobs and growing our economy while successfully reducing emissions.”

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers added: “The planting of one million trees will be fundamental in our commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it.

“They will enhance our landscape, improve our quality of life and protect the climate for future generations.”

Friends of the Earth said the package fell far short of what was needed to have a real impact on climate change.

“We are living in a climate and ecological emergency and these measures are nowhere near commensurate with the scale of the challenge,” chief executive Craig Bennett said.

“For decades, we’ve been promised that nuclear fusion is ‘just a decade away’ and yet it’s never materialised. Why throw money away on tech-fix pipe dreams, at precisely the moment that onshore and offshore wind and solar are delivering better returns than ever before?

“If the Government is serious about slashing climate pollution it needs to stop fracking, stop filling the skies with more planes, and stop funding oil and gas projects abroad and instead invest in public transport, renewable energy and doubling UK tree cover.”