Environmental politics
News of the week: 23rd March


environmental politics

Each week, Greenhouse Public Affairs will provide a policy and political insights report across sectors including energy, transport and the environment. You can sign up to our weekly round-up .  


The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee next week is due to start its inquiry into net-zero and the COP26 summit (it is yet to be confirmed if this session will be conducted remotely). This inquiry will run until the summer recess – it will scrutinise government preparations for COP26 in Glasgow and more broadly its roadmap to reduce emissions, with evidence expected to be given by ministers and leading environmental stakeholders.

These sessions will provide great insight into government progress, and keep an important spotlight on its priorities. Details of the inquiry and session minutes when available can be found here

Local authorities are to receive a £2.2m boost to tackle air pollution through the delivery of innovative projects to improve air quality, via the Air Quality Grant scheme. Projects that have received funding in this round include active travel programmes for schools and workplaces, data gathering and mapping for air quality, and targeted behaviour and awareness campaigns focussed on domestic burning and summer bonfires. 

Local authority-led activity to address air quality was also recognised in the Budget, with an additional £300 million to reduce NOx emissions. 

The government has created emergency measures so the 4 million households that rely on pre-paid electricity and gas meters have the option to keep their supply going when they cannot afford to top up.

Various methods to achieve this are being decided, and suppliers have agreed in cases of financial hardship to review debt repayments and bill payments. Disconnection of credit meters has also been completely suspended. Full details can be found here

Following last week’s Budget, the government is continuing to consult around the scope of plastics packaging tax, and has launched a formal consultation asking for views on the scope of the tax, tax design and implementation. The government will be taking written submissions and conducting stakeholder engagement meetings (now expected to be held remotely). The consultation document can be viewed here
Read more energy news on our Greenhouse blog


The government has launched a consultation to make journeys easier, smarter and greener through new technology, as part of the Future of Transport regulatory review.

The review will consider how we make small changes to our everyday travel decisions and whether we could choose to walk, cycle, bus or one day scoot instead of taking the car.

Alongside the review, a £90 million funding boost will lead to trials of new transport innovation in 3 new ‘future transport zones’. The zones will provide real-world testing for experts, allowing them to work with a range of local bodies such as councils, hospitals, airports and universities to test innovative ways to transport people and goods. The 3 new zones set to receive a share of the funding are in Portsmouth and Southampton, the West of England Combined Authority, and Derby and Nottingham – they will all join the existing West Midlands future of transport zone. 

The call for evidence opened on 16 March 2020 and closes on 22 May 2020. The consultation can be viewed here

A call for evidence on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) has been launched, seeking views on how to move towards a more dynamic VED system, and how VED can support a reduction in road transport emissions. The announcement follows a 2019 government commitment to call for evidence on how VED can be leveraged to recognise smaller differences in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This call for evidence seeks views on how the government can use VED to further encourage the uptake of zero and ultra-low emission cars, and reduce overall emissions from road transport. It also seeks views on the VED treatment of motorcycles. More details can be found here
Market research consultancy firm Savanta ComRes has today released the results of their ‘Future of Parking’ survey, in which they surveyed London residents about their household’s car usage, their attitudes about parking, and how they would like street space in their local area to be prioritised. 
Key findings include: 

  • Londoners want to see streets space in their local area prioritised for trees and other green space (62%), pavements free of clutter (57%), children’s play space (47%) and community space, such as seating and recreation space (44%). 
  • On street parking for residents was the fifth-highest priority for street use (43%), closely followed by dedicated disabled parking bays (41%) and priority bus lanes (40%). 
  • Drivers are reluctant to give up the convenience of their own car. 44% of car owners agreed with the statement “I rarely use my car, but I still need it for occasional trips” and 69% of car owners agreed they would not move to a new home without parking provision, even if it had good access to public transport.

The full results can be found here

Environment and COP26

This week saw a meeting of the Environmental Audit Committee to discuss net-zero progress and nature-based solutions to climate change.

The UK Government is not set to reach net-zero by 2050 as legislation currently stands, and witnesses alluded to the government’s numerous hypocrisies (e.g. sourcing fossil fuel energy abroad or funding fossil fuel research abroad, even activity in the North Sea was questioned). Nature and biodiversity programmes are also deemed critical and must be given equal importance to the phasing out of fossil fuels. Read minutes from the meeting here
At the Environmental Audit Committee meeting, it was suggested that the outcome of the US elections may play a pivotal role in future negotiations (if Trump is re-elected, the US will likely pull out of the Paris Agreement; if a Democrat wins, we could see a resurgence in US involvement in climate talks).

There was a lack of consensus on the future of COP26 given COVID-19, but most were against it being held digitally. Instead, they favoured moving its location to a coronavirus-free zone or postponing the event for a few months – perhaps until Spring 2021.

Read more on the implications here

A new report by the Centre for Policy Studies is calling for a Carbon Border Tax to reduce carbon-intensive imports, and address offshoring of emissions.

During the recent “coal free” fortnight, where no domestic coal was used to power the grid, we imported an estimated 40.4 GWh of Dutch coal-fired generation. Emissions from imported goods and raw materials, including coal, steel and electricity, are not included in UK statistics, allowing Britain to continue using energy generated from fossil fuels, whilst appearing to be meeting emissions targets.

Download the full report here

If you would like to talk to us about political engagement and public affairs, email us at public.affairs@greenhousepr.co.uk 

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