Philip Dunne chairman of the environmental audit committee: Tomorrow is the International Day of Climate Action. There is no shortage of public enthusiasm for protecting our environment, as is clear from the climate emergency declarations across the country and the recent Climate Assembly UK report, whose members urged a timely path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government’s rhetoric is similarly ambitious, pledging to be an environmental world leader and being the first major economy to legislate for net-zero by 2050. But to meet these goals, we need to start seeing more action from the government. The environmental audit committee, which I chair, has been considering how new, or lesser used, technologies can lead the UK to net zero. Offshore wind power, which the prime minister endorsed during his speech at Conservative Party conference, could play a significant role. We have over 40 wind farms and about 2,200 turbines in UK waters, and last year they generated 10 per cent of all UK electricity. My committee found we can do much more, with a real prospect of meeting the prime minister’s ambition for all UK homes to be powered by wind by 2030. We have just launched the latest phase of our inquiry considering technological innovations: heat pumps. Although heat pumps date from around the time of the first refrigerator, they account for only 1 per cent of residential heating systems in the UK. The problem? Gas heating systems are significantly cheaper, so there is little in the way of incentives. As with many other renewables, however, the running costs of heat pumps are set to decrease significantly over time, while the capital costs are high. We will be uncovering all the pros and cons of heat pumps and will deliver our verdict to the government in the coming months.
Times 23rd Oct 2020 read more »