NATIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP: Boris urges Biden on Afghanistan AND higher bills for gas boiler owners
Now it's time for your latest national headlines update including Boris urges Biden on Afghanistan, a new Government-backed COVID-19 antibody study, and higher bills for gas boiler owners.
BORIS URGES BIDEN: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the US president to hold back on withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. The PM, speaking with Joe Biden at an emergency G7 meeting, put pressure on the president in front of world leaders after attempts by Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace both failed. It's thought US help in evacuating people from Kabul will relieve pressure and prevent the UK from having to withdraw too.
President Joe Biden said the US-led evacuation of Americans, at-risk Afghans and others from the Kabul airport accelerated this weekend, although it remains vulnerable to threats posed by the so-called Islamic State extremist group.
One week after the Taliban completed its takeover of Afghanistan by capturing Kabul, Mr Biden said discussions are under way among military officials about potentially extending the airlift beyond Mr Biden’s August 31 deadline.
“Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are discussions,” he said, suggesting the possibility that the Taliban will be consulted.
Since August 14, one day before the Taliban entered Kabul, the airlift has evacuated 28,000 people, Mr Biden said.
He said that included 11,000 who had departed from Kabul in a 36-hour period this weekend, but he did not provide details.
COVID-19 ANTIBODY STUDY: A new study searching for COVID antibodies could provide important data needed to inform a booster jabs programme. Eight thousand people per day who test positive for COVID-19 will be given the chance to take part in the study which will see a finger prick blood test to look at the protection provided by antibodies after both infection and vaccination.
GAS BOILER LEVY: And finally - if you have a gas boiler at home, your household bills could be going up very soon. Owners of the appliances will be subject to levies to help fund greener alternatives, in a move suggested by a landmark review. The Heat and Buildings Strategy suggests hydrogen boilers and heat pumps could be the future instead.
Hydrogen is one of the potential options for cleaning up home heating, a big source of climate emissions, and initially hydrogen could be blended in with gas to reduce pollution without having to swap out your boiler.
But that will only go so far, and you would need 100% hydrogen in the grid to fully cut climate emissions, so the Government has plans for trialling this, with potentially a whole town converted to full hydrogen heating by 2030.
If you buy a new boiler after 2026, there are also proposals to make them “hydrogen ready”, so that they could make the switch to the new fuel if the grid in your area was changed over.
But decisions on the role of hydrogen in heating are still several years away, and it will not be playing much of a role in home heating by 2030, with more work needed to test the costs, benefits, safety and feasibility of using it.
Experts warn hydrogen needs to be reserved for the areas where there are few alternatives, such as heavy industry or shipping, and the focus for homes should be on options such as energy efficiency and heat pumps for homes.
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