Unearthed today: UK backs nuclear, vague on home heating

Welcome to Unearthed today the daily climate and environment news wrap from @damiankahya. Sign up below.


Sorry, we’re late today, there’s an energy white paper I hear!

I’m reading about… UK energy and climate policy

Here are some key developments in UK energy and climate policy over the past few days:

  • The UK has committed to ending direct UK taxpayer support for overseas fossil fuel projects. The announcement follows years of stories from ourselves and others detailing support for environmentally destructive fossil fuel projects in the global south. Yes. We are pleased with this one.
  • The government has begun talks with EDF about the construction of a new £20bn nuclear power plant in Suffolk. It comes as the Energy White Paper commits to signing off at least one more plant during this parliament. The paper also lays out plans to explore a range of financing options for new nuclear with developers including the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model where developers get cash upfront from billpayers or taxpayers to reduce their interest payments.
  • The White paper announcement includes much that is old news now, but there is a new commitment to “Moving away from fossil fuel boilers… By the mid-2030s we expect all newly installed heating systems to be low carbon or to be appliances that we are confident can be converted to a clean fuel supply.” Note, that could include “hydrogen ready” gas boilers. This may be problematic as it is practically impossible to use hydrogen for home heating at mass scale.
  • The UK will implement it’s own – more ambitious – emissions trading scheme rather than reverting to a Carbon Tax as it leaves the EU. Announcing this now may partially help ease talks with the Commission. The government is open to linking the UK ETS internationally in principle, and we are considering a range of options, but no decision on our preferred linking partners has yet been made.
  • There is a major focus on bills and jobs. The government sees North Sea oil jobs transitioning to carbon capture and hydrogen whilst thousands more jobs are created in a major programme of retrofitting homes for improved energy efficiency and clean heat. 

Further reading

UK phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Energy White Paper press release and full docs here

Also in the news:

The planet remains on path to catastrophe after UN climate conference: Activists were eager for China to put some meat on the bones of its bold 2060 carbon neutrality pledge. They were disappointed. One country after another failed to raise the bar, as leaders offered only incremental steps. President Xi Jinping said China would seek to cut emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65% from 2005 levels by 2030, slightly raising the previous target of cutting pollution by 60% to 65%.

Surge of supertrawlers off UK before Brexit killing dolphins and destroying fish stocks: Ten factory ships have arrived in the English Channel in the past three weeks – a sharp increase that some suspect could be driven by Brexit.

European truckmakers to phase out diesel sales decade earlier than planned: Europe’s largest truckmakers have pledged to stop selling vehicles that produce emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than originally planned.

Biden considers former EPA chief McCarthy for domestic climate czar: Biden is also considering Michael Regan, an African American who runs North Carolina’s environmental agency, to run the EPA, the two sources said.

And worth reading today: 10 myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting, busted