The much-delayed Net Zero Strategy which the government has been promising since spring 2021 has arrived at last, with promises to decarbonise the economy and reach net zero by 2050.

The strategy includes plans to stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and more offshore wind generation, money for cycle and walking programmes, and a decision on a new nuclear power plant in the next three years.

Read more: Government sets out £5,000 grants for households to swap boilers for heat pumps

The approach has been criticised as “a highly unbalanced view of the economic impact of reaching net-zero,” by the climate think tank E3G.

“Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, the Treasury knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing,” said Heather McKay, E3G’s policy advisor on UK sustainable finance.

So what exactly is the government proposing as its Net Zero Strategy?

What is the government's Net Zero Strategy?

In recent days business and energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng has announced a fund to give out £5,000 grants to people wanting to upgrade their old gas boilers to electrically powered heat pumps, starting next April and running for three years.

However, there’s some scepticism that the fund, which could help pay for up to 90,000 heat pumps, will make enough difference to a country running on around 25 million gas boilers. The Net Zero Strategy mentions an “ambition” for no new gas boilers to be sold by 2035.

The plan is for 40GW of power to be generated by offshore wind by 2030, which is also the cut-off for the end of the sale of petrol and diesel cars. There’s a commitment to spend £2bn to help make half of all journeys in towns and cities walkable or cyclable by 2030, and there’s £625m for tree-planting programmes.

There are also plans to build at least one new nuclear power station in the future.

A government spokesperson told the Financial Times: "Nuclear power has a key role to play as we work to build a strong, home-grown energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global gas prices.

"We are seeking to approve at least one more large-scale nuclear project in the next few years to strengthen energy security and create thousands of jobs."

When will the government publish its net zero strategy?

It has been published today (Tuesday 19 October). The full 368-page strategy document can be read in full on the Treasury website, alongside a response to the Committee on Climate Change’s assessment of how the government has responded to the threats posed by climate change.

Why is the Treasury opposed to the net zero strategy?

Decarbonising the economy and our homes doesn’t come cheap. Indeed, a parliamentary committee found in March 2021 that the cost of decarbonising the UK’s homes had been underestimated by between £35bn and £65bn.

So the Treasury is slightly reluctant to foot the bill. A report in the Sunday Telegraph in August 2021 suggested that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were at loggerheads, with Sunak preferring to get private enterprise to help pay for it.

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