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Johnson urges green investment in post-Brexit Britain

By AFP - Oct 19,2021 - Last updated at Oct 19,2021

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates have a discussion on stage during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum in London, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday urged foreign investors to buy into post-Brexit Britain, as he seeks to power the country's future prosperity on renewable energy.

The UK leader kicked off a Global Investment Summit in London by announcing a £400 million ($552 million, 473 million euros) partnership with the Bill Gates Foundation to invest in emerging green technologies.

The tie-up, which will see both sides stump up £200 million, follows Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola announcing late Monday plans to invest £6 billion creating Britain's biggest offshore wind development.

Johnson, who has outlined plans for the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, is hoping to burnish his green credentials before hosting world leaders at a critical UN climate change gathering in Glasgow next month.

He also wants to boost investment to grow Britain's economy as it grapples with the fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, which have combined to strain the logistics sector, labour market and other areas.

In his sales pitch, Johnson promised government backing for private investment in sustainable projects, promising Britain was now "moving in an exciting new direction with a green, industrial revolution, with new regulatory freedoms".

But some government plans to cut carbon emissions have come under fire for not going far enough.

Homeowners in England and Wales will be offered subsidies of £5,000 from next year as part of a £450 million scheme to help them replace old gas boilers with low-carbon heat pumps.

But experts pointed out that the grants will fund just 90,000 of the devices, and a better alternative would be to reduce energy demand by improving home insulation.

Activists from the campaign group Insulate Britain have sought to highlight that issue by blocking motorways and main roads in recent weeks.

Scaling up 

The Gates Foundation tie-up — run through the Microsoft co-founder's Breakthrough Energy Catalyst arm, set up in 2015 alongside private investors — will focus on four key green technology areas.

They include green hydrogen, long-term energy storage, sustainable aviation fuels and so-called direct air capture, which harnesses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Appearing with Johnson, Gates said the joint investment would begin next year and he hoped that at least one of them would be "ready to scale" within five years and the remainder within a decade.

"We're going to take these technologies which are not yet economic... and we will scale those up and bring down that cost, so we'll get these to the same place we are today with solar and onshore wind," he added.

Meanwhile, once operational Iberdrola's wind project off the east coast of England — involving its subsidiary Scottish Power — would supply enough energy to power 2.7 million homes and create 7,000 jobs.

The project, which still requires planning consent, is one of 18 deals worth a total of £9.7 billion and creating a potential 30,000-plus jobs to be formally announced at the summit.

The government said it will also launch a new "Investment Atlas" showcasing strategic investment opportunities across the UK as it seeks to deliver on one of its central 2019 election pledges to reduce regional inequality.

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