Sustainability & Renewables

Going Green: A summary of the UK’s Top Sustainability & Renewable News Stories

UK Ranks Top Out of G7 Countries For Sustainability

The 2023 Competitiveness Report by Eight International reveals that among the G7 countries, the UK stands out in particular for its impressive sustainable performance, making waves as a global leader within this sector.

In fact, the UK ranks second best in its Environmental Performance Index and seventh in its Green Index, all thanks to lower levels in air pollution and carbon emissions.

The report grants an overall index score of 0.72 for sustainability, a higher rating compared to any of the world’s largest economies including the US, Japan and Germany. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the UK also ranks first for sustainability for countries with a population over 25 million. Wowzers!

The UK has performed strongly in terms of sustainability this year, particularly when compared to large economic peers such as Germany and France, and this performance has helped it rank relatively high overall in our 2023 Competitiveness Report.
Alex Karklins-Marchay, General Secretary at Eight International

Building Momentum: The UK’s Current Sustainable Targets

In summary, The UK’s Government set a series of actionable and ambitious promises for the next 10-30 years, with a focus on improving environmental sustainability.

Here's some of those goals:

  • Reduce emissions to Net Zero by 2050

  • Reduce emissions of 5 damaging air pollutants which will halve the effects of air pollution on health by 2030

  • End the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040

  • Increase woodland in England to achieve 12% coverage by 2020: this would mean planting 180,000 hectares by end of 2042

Rishi Sunak Announces U-Turn on Key Green Targets

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to delay crucial plans towards these sustainable actions has caused a stir in the community from climate scientists and environmental experts, who are behind championing these transformative changes.

The effects of this delay extend beyond the set time frame, potentially leading to increased costs for British families due to the lack of cost-saving measures and placing added pressure on key sectors such as automobile and energy industries.

Sunak’s announcement sparked debate on the balance between economic priorities and environmental responsibilities, and the impact this will have on the momentum already built up for positive, sustainable change.

This has been exacerbated by the postponement of new, proposed mandatory environmental laws which compels developers to enhance countryside and wildlife habitats, endorsed by the 2021 Environmental Act .

Despite the government asserting its ongoing commitment to the policy, The Wildlife Trusts describes the news as Another setback for nature,” as these laws were originally set to be actioned in November 2023.

Private Rental Market Faces £19bn EPC-Upgrade Bill

Approximately 49% of all privately rented homes have an EPC rating of D or lower, the worst performing area being in Wales with 58% having an EPC rating of D and below.

This is brilliant news in particular for the private rental market, as meeting EPC guidelines by 2025 has been predicted to cost around £19 billion. It’s estimated by Bloomberg that the average cost to improve energy efficiency for each home is £8,000. This will help to make strides for more energy-efficient homes.

Not quite to plan…

Despite recent setbacks, it’s important to shine a spotlight on announcements that are bound to have a positive impact in 2024 and beyond.,

Here’s our top 3 sustainable shoutouts

1. The UK Government awards £1.8 Billion through Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund & Home Upgrade Grant

Reaching net zero means considerable action from the public sector as well as the private sector. Through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme funding, we are empowering public bodies to save the taxpayer hundreds of millions while packing a punch on our ambitious and necessary climate goals.
Lord Callanan- Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance.

Investments of nearly £2 billion have been awarded to upgrade 115,000 homes across England, allocated through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Home Upgrade Grant. This will be used to fund energy-saving measures ranging from loft insulation to new windows.

This also includes match funding for social housing provided by local authorities to upgrade social and private homes in England, improving vulnerable households and off-gas grid homes with an EPC rating of D or below.

This has the potential to save tenants between £220-£400 a year on energy bills.

2. The First Energy Positive Building Opens in Neath Port Talbot, Wales

The first ever energy positive building in Neath Port Talbot was opened officially by the Secretary of State, who received a warm welcome from Cllr Steve Hunt, leader of the Neath Port Talbot Council.

The building, developed by Neath Port Talbot council, was designed to address the growing need for additional commercial properties, due to the full occupancy of the adjacent Innovation Centre and the escalating demand for top-tier business spaces.

The centre spans across 25,000 square feet, providing office and laboratory facilities for start-up enterprises, local businesses, and incoming investors seeking a hub to establish and expand their activities.

Securing £8.5 million investment, this initiative received substantial financial backing, including £3.75 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £3 Million from Swansea Bay City Deal, and £500,000 from the Welsh Government’s Economic Stimulus Fund. In commitment to the project, Neath Port Talbot Council also contributed £1.25 million.

The centre has won several awards for its alliance towards the council's Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy strategy (DARE) becoming the first energy positive commercial building in Wales in operation.

3. Expanding Horizons: UK’s Crown Estate Boosts Offshore Wind Licensing Capacity

The Crown Estate oversees the British monarchy's public holdings, managing the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and awards seabed rights for the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.

The offshore wind licensing round created opportunities for new floating wind technology projects in the waters around England and Wales, assisting in creating jobs and investment to power enough energy for more than 7 million homes by 2050.

Under the new plans, three project development areas of roughly equal size, each with a potential capacity of up to 1.5 gigawatts (GW), will be made available to bidders, as opposed to the previously proposed four areas of varying sizes.

This means the overall capacity which will be available under the licensing round will be up to 4.5 GW - enough to power more than 4 million homes - compared with 4 GW

With the second highest tidal range in the world, Wales is well-positioned for renewable energy generation with an environment suitable for high energy wind and wave climate. This will help target Wales’ electrical demand, responsible for powering up to 70% of electrical sources by 2030.

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