COP26 Update: Government confirms coal to be phased out by October 2024

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As COP26 approaches, Brevia will be tracking the latest milestones in the UK’s preparations for the upcoming climate conference. This week’s developments cover the UK’s phase out of coal, the ‘greening’ of the UK’s financial sector, as well as two new Select Committee inquiries on the delivery of net zero.

1. Coal to be phased out by October 2024

The UK Government confirmed that it will bring forward the deadline for phasing out coal from the UK’s energy mix to October 2024, a year earlier than originally planned.[1] The Prime Minister had previously announced his intention to bring forward the date in February 2020, which was followed by a consultation on the proposal running from December 2020 to February 2021.[2]

The move comes as the Government seeks to reaffirm its green credentials. Particularly following the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) progress report last week, which criticised the policy gap between Government ambition and actual delivery, the Government has been keen to highlight its climate leadership as host of COP26.[3]

Announcing the new date for phasing out coal, the Energy and Clean Growth Minister, The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, stated that she hoped the UK’s accelerated timeline for the phase out of coal would help bring forward equally ambitious targets from other countries in the run up to the climate conference in Glasgow. [4]

Other net zero announcements this week include the launch of the £3 million Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) competition, which seeks to support research into electric and hydrogen aircraft.[5]

2. Green Financing                                                                                                                                                 

The Chancellor, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, has unveiled his plan to transform the UK’s financial sector into a leading green finance hub.[6]

Speaking on Wednesday at the Mansion House, the Chancellor used his speech to set out further detail on a series of policies aimed overhauling the financial services industry to make the UK a leader for low-carbon financial services.

Specifically, the Chancellor outlined additional information on the £15 billion Green Savings Bond Scheme. The scheme will allow UK savers to buy bonds used to fund projects such as investments in wind and clean hydrogen power. The green savings bonds will be available through National Savings & Investments (NS&I), with two Green Gilt issuances to occur in 2021, worth £15bn in total. The first Green Gilt is expected to be issued in September 2021.[7]

Alongside this, the Chancellor confirmed plans for new integrated Sustainability Disclosure Requirements, which will require pension schemes, financial services firms and their investment products to report on the impact they are having on the climate and environment – as well as the risks and opportunities facing their business.[8]

3. New Select Committee Inquiries

The influential Environmental Audit Select Committee, along with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, have both launched new climate related inquiries.

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry on the pathway to net zero, titled ‘Mapping the path to net zero’. The committee workstream will focus on scrutinising the Government’s strategies for delivering net zero. The inquiry was launched following the CCC’s warning that time is running out for the Government to publish its much-anticipated Net Zero Strategy.[9]

The first evidence session is scheduled for 21 July 2021, with witnesses including representatives from the CCC.

In related news, the BEIS Committee has launched an inquiry on net zero governance, which will focus on the departmental co-ordination required to deliver the UK’s net zero target, as well as the Government’s leadership role across Whitehall, devolved administrations and local and regional authorities.[10]

The inquiry is currently seeking evidence on cross-Government climate action and Government support for businesses to deliver net zero. The inquiry is accepting evidence until Friday 27 August. The call for evidence can be accessed through here.

 

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Notes

[1] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), End to coal power brought forward to October 2024, 30 June 2021, Link

[2] BEIS, Early phase out of unabated coal generation in Great Britain, Consultation, 14 December 2020, Link

[3] Climate Change Committee, 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, 24 June 2021, Link

[4] BEIS, End to coal power brought forward to October 2024, 30 June 2021, Link

[5] Department for Transport, Jet Zero Council keeps up momentum with £3 million government funding for zero emission flight infrastructure as UK pioneers first-ever net zero carbon freighter flights, 30 June 2021, Link

[6] HM Treasury, Chancellor sets out how UK financial services can create prosperity at home and project values abroad in first Mansion House speech, 1 July 2021, Link

[7] HM Treasury, UK Government Green Financing, 30 June 2021, Link

[8] HM Treasury, Chancellor sets out how UK financial services can create prosperity at home and project values abroad in first Mansion House speech, 1 July 2021, Link

[9] Environmental Audit Committee, Committee to monitor net zero plans across Government departments in run up to COP26, 25 June 2021, Link

[10] Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Net Zero Governance, 24 June 2021, Link

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