Net zero strategy: Boris Johnson's seven steps towards 'ending UK's contribution to climate change'

Wildfires ripped through Greece this year, with environmentalists blaming climate change. Credit: AP

Boris Johnson has set out his 'Net Zero Strategy' - a plan that he says will allow the UK to end its contribution to climate change by 2050.

The strategy, according the the government, will also "secure 440,000 well-paid jobs and unlock £90 billion in investment by 2030".

But as ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana says, the plan will not involve ministers lecturing Brits on the benefits of flying less, cycling more, or cutting our meat intake.

So how does the PM plan to lead the race toward achieving net zero?

First of all, what is net zero?

Before the industrial revolution, the earth was taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than humans were adding to it.

The dawn of industry changed all of that, and pretty much every country in the world now pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a much faster rate than they can be removed.

Boris Johnson wants to increase usage of hydrogen power in a drive toward net zero. Pictured is a hydrogen powered JCB Loadall. Credit: PA

A country reaches net zero when the amount of greenhouse gases emitted is the same as that taken out from the atmosphere, a process also known as “carbon neutrality”.

There are various ways to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere - one of the slower ways is to plant more trees.

Seven steps on the prime minister's net zero strategy

Mr Johnson said that "by moving first and taking bold action" the UK will set the example "for other countries to build back greener too as we lead the charge towards global net zero".

"We will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way."

  • Electric vehicles

The government wants people to stop driving vehicles which use petrol or diesel and replace them with electric cars that emit zero emissions.

The government wants electric cars to replace fuel burning cars. Credit: PA

Since electric vehicles are often expensive and sometimes impractical to run, the government will put £620 million into electric vehicle grants and infrastructure, particularly local on-street residential charge points.

There's also plans to introduce a zero-emission vehicle mandate which would incentivise car manufacturers to steadily increase sales of zero emission vehicles towards the 2030 target of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

  • Sustainable fuel for aeroplanes

Ministers believe a commitment to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) could go a long way towards achieving net zero.

SAFs are made from sustainable materials such as everyday household waste, flue gases from industry, carbon captured from the atmosphere and excess electricity.

They produce more than 70% fewer carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel on a lifecycle basis.

As part of the transition to sustainable aviation fuel the government says it will provide UK industry with £180 million in funding to support the development of UK SAF plants.

The government hopes jets will soon use more sustainable aviation fuel. Credit: PA

  • Acceleration of carbon capture and storage

Carbon capture and storage is the idea of hoovering up emissions produced by power generation or industrial activity, transporting it via a pipeline for example, and storing it deep underground.

The process involves CO2 being separated from other gases produced in industrial processes, such as those at coal and natural-gas-fired power generation plants or steel or cement factories.

A £140 million investment is aimed at accelerating the development of carbon capture technology.

It will fast-track the development of two carbon capture sites - Hynet Cluster in North West England and North Wales and the East Coast Cluster in Teesside and the Humber.

  • £500 million for green innovation projects

Half a billion pounds will go towards innovation projects to develop "the green technologies of the future".

This plan will support the "most pioneering ideas and technologies to decarbonise our homes, industries, land and power".

This will include the development of carbon capture technology and new ways to utilise hydrogen power, which produces no carbon dioxide pollution.

  • Boiler Upgrade Scheme

Heat pumps are being increasing used as a low carbon solution. Credit: PA Images

A £450 million investment will give households in England and Wales grants of £5,000 to swap their gas boilers for low-carbon electric heat pumps for heating and hot water.

An air source heat pump is installed outside your house. It uses electricity to take energy from the outside air and converts that into heat. Air source heat pumps extract heat from the environment even in cold weather.

There are also heat pumps that extract energy from water or the ground.

Heat pumps produce about three times the energy they use - this makes them much more efficient than gas boilers.

  • Boosting nature's capacity to reclaim more carbon

An easy, albeit slow way to reduce the amount of carbon a country emits into the atmosphere is to increase the volume of CO2 absorbing flora.

The government plans to treble woodland creation in England in order to create at least 30,000 hectares of woodland per year across the UK by the end of this parliament.

It also hopes to to restore approximately 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050.

Planting more trees will help bring down carbon emissions. Credit: PA
  • Development of nuclear projects

Some £120 million will go towards the development of nuclear projects.

The government says there remains a number of "optimal sites" for new "cutting edge new nuclear power stations", including the Wylfa site in Anglesey.

"Funding like this could support our path to decarbonising the UK’s electricity system fifteen years earlier from 2050 to 2035," the government added.

What's the reaction to the PM's plan?

Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, said: “This document is more like a pick and mix than the substantial meal that we need to reach net zero.

“Extra cash for tree planting and progress on electric vehicles doesn’t make up for the lack of concrete plans to deliver renewables at scale, extra investment in public transport, or a firm commitment to end new oil and gas licences.”

She warned there were only half-hearted policies and funding commitments to cut carbon from draughty homes at the rate necessary, and it failed to grapple with the need to reduce meat and dairy consumption.

“Until the policy and funding gaps are closed, Boris Johnson’s plea to other countries to deliver on their promises at the global climate conference next month will be easy to ignore,” she said.