Boris Johnson has unveiled £350m in funding to help industry slash carbon emissions, as he launched the UK’s bid to secure the first zero-emissions long-haul passenger flight.
The prime minister said the cash would help support a “green, sustainable recovery”, with the money aimed at decarbonising polluting sectors including construction, transport and heavy industry.
The pledge comes as Johnson prepares to host the first meeting of a promised new "Jet Zero Council", bringing together aviation and environmental experts in a bid to see the UK launch the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger plane.
Johnson said: “We’ve made great strides towards our net zero target over the last year, but it’s more important than ever that we keep up the pace of change to fuel a green, sustainable recovery as we rebuild from the pandemic.”
The PM added: “The UK now has a huge opportunity to cement its place at the vanguard of green innovation, setting an example worldwide while growing the economy and creating new jobs.
“That’s why we’re backing cutting edge research to cut costs and carbon across our great British industries, and even paving the way for the first ever zero emission long haul passenger flight – so that our green ambitions remain sky high as we build back better for both our people and our planet.”
The funding package includes £139m to help heavy industry switch from natural gas to clean hydrogen power, with a planned boost for carbon capture and storage technology, which aims to store carbon permanently underground.
Almost £150m is also being pledged to support the use of “innovative materials” in polluting industries, with 13 projects getting the go-ahead including those looking to reuse waste ash in the glass and ceramics industry.
The government is also pledging £26m to back “advanced new building techniques” which are less carbon-intensive in the construction industry, while a separate £10m boost will towards 19 projects aimed at improving the quality of buildings.
Ministers meanwhile have their eye on the space sector, with a new £15m funding line for a ‘National Space Innovation Programme’ that will monitor the impact of climate change and could, the Government says, “protect local areas from the impacts of extreme weather by identifying changes in the environment”.
Launching the drive, business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Climate change is among the greatest challenges of our age. To tackle it we need to unleash innovation in businesses across the country.
"This funding will reduce emissions, create green collar jobs and fuel a strong, clean economic recovery – all essential to achieving net zero emissions by 2050."
But the fresh funding pledge comes after environmental campaign groups expressed disappointment at the scale of Boris Johnson’s promised ‘New Deal’ for Britain as the country seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Friends of the Earth’s Muna Suleiman said at the time that the government's proposals fail to recognise the "true scale of the climate and nature emergencies our planet is hurtling towards".
She added: "A green and fair recovery should be the centrepiece of government plans, not some detailing at the very edges.
"Boris Johnson won't build back greener by investing in yet more roads, which will only lock us further into the climate crisis."