On 13 January, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the final report of the Net Zero Review, commissioned by former prime minister Liz Truss MP and chaired by former BEIS minister Chris Skidmore MP.
What is the net zero target?
he ‘net zero target’ refers to a government commitment to ensure the UK reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels by 2050. If met, this would mean the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the UK would be equal to or less than the emissions removed by the UK from the environment.
The net zero target stemmed from a recommendation made by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in May 2019. The CCC is a statutory body that provides independent advice on climate change to the UK and devolved governments.
The net zero target was made legally binding by the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019. Prior to this, the UK’s legally binding target was to reduce emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050. The government said the UK was the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law.
The review said the UK should be proud of the steps it has taken so far to achieve net zero. However, it stated that actions were needed from government, industry and individuals to make the most of net zero opportunities. It noted the UK had been assessed by the CCC to be lacking in progress in some areas:
The need for further action is clear. For all the UK’s successes and clear ambition shown by government, it is not on track to deliver on all of its commitments according to the latest progress report by the CCC, which shows risks across most sectors
To identify potential barriers to the future delivery of net zero, the review engaged with a variety of sectors. It said the common message received from sectors was the need for “clarity, certainty, consistency and continuity” from the government on net zero policies.
The review also considered actions taken by other countries in response to net zero opportunities. It said “bold and ambitious” interventions were being made across the international arena.
The report said other parts of the world had also recognised the market shift and were acting too. As such, the review warned that the UK needed to respond to this shift or “risk losing out on new opportunities and seeing current economic activity move away”.
It recommended the UK provide incentives for investment, alongside wider opportunities for job creation and local and regional regeneration.
This would ensure the UK not only maintained its international leadership on climate action but could also compete with other nations that were making strategic decisions over their own energy transitions.
The review endorsed the government’s net zero strategy and agreed the policies outlined within it should still go ahead. However, it said a new approach to the strategy was needed.
It advised the creation of ‘mission zero missions’ to be launched in 2025 and achieved by 2035. These long-term goals would be established across sectors and provide the vision and security for stakeholders and investors, the report said.
It also stated these missions would help to establish a “stronger, better planned and co-ordinated, long-term delivery for net zero”.
In addition to these long-term missions, the review said the government should also take immediate action. It recommended 25 short-term policies that the government should achieve by 2025.
The review called these policies the ‘25 by 2025’. The aim of these short-term policies would be to help remove barriers that prevented business and industries from supporting the UK’s net zero ambition.
The report said the 25 by 2025 would also provide an immediate signal of the government’s intention to deliver its net zero target.
#1 Using infrastructure to unlock net zero by:
- Accelerating the implementation of the British energy security strategy to establish the ‘future system operator’ that would drive the UK’s overall energy transition and oversee the UK energy system
- Developing a cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy by 2025 to support the development of infrastructure for electricity, hydrogen, other liquid and gaseous fuels and CO2 networks that support the UK’s green economy
- Reforming the government’s approach to planning by streamlining processes so that locally supported solar and onshore wind generation systems could be developed in communities more easily
#2 Creating sustainable governance structures for net zero by:
- Developing a government financing strategy by 2023 to give business and investors long-term clarity on the length of funding commitments
- Developing a long-term programmatic approach to net zero projects
- Creating an ‘Office for Net Zero Delivery’ that would place net zero delivery “at the heart of government thinking”, be responsible for ensuring best practice for
- Key projects, and take ownership of net zero priorities where they span multiple departments
#3 Backing businesses to go green by:
- Reviewing how HM Treasury (HMT) incentivises investment in decarbonisation by the end of 2023, including via the tax system and capital allowance
- Delivering the Green Jobs Taskforce recommendations—convened from November 2020 to July 2021 by ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Education, this taskforce published recommendations on the skills needed in the UK job market to transition to net zero— and the commitments from the net zero strategy, reporting regularly on progress and starting by mid-2023
- Launching a ‘help to grow green’ campaign that offered information resources and vouchers to help small and medium-sized enterprises plan and invest in the energy transition
#4 Catalysing local action by:
- Reforming the planning system at local and national level to ensure it supports net zero and the economic opportunities that come with it
- Simplifying the local net zero funding landscape to make it more efficient and productive for central and local government
- Backing a set of ‘trailblazer’ places that want to go further and faster on net zero
#5 Increasing transparency and engaging people by:
Expanding the government’s public reporting on net zero to increase the information available to the public
Publishing a public engagement strategy to increase public engagement on net zero
Creating a ‘carbon calculator’ to provide consumers with information on carbon costs
Working with industries to introduce a standardised approach to ecolabelling by 2025 and reviewing options for a ‘net zero charter’ mark as a gold standard for sustainability
#6 Delivering cleaner, cheaper and greener homes by:
- Adopting a 10-year mission to make heat pumps a widespread technology in the UK and regulating for the end of new and replacement gas boilers by 2033 at the latest
- Reforming EPC ratings to create a clearer, more accessible net zero performance certificate for households
#7 Capitalising on the UK’s international leadership by:
- Conducting a strategic review of the UK’s international climate leadership by 2023
- Establishing a baseline for environmental and climate protections in future free trade agreements and removing trade barriers to environmental goods and services
#8 Setting the UK up for 2050 and beyond by:
- Working with sector leaders by autumn 2023 to create a research and development (R&D) and technology roadmap that outlines key decision points to ensure priority technologies deliver on the UK’s net zero and growth ambitions
- BEIS and HMT reviewing how to incentivise greater R&D for net zero