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Climate change plans: Ministers urged to take up 'the economic opportunity of the 21st century' with net zero

The government should go "further and faster" on cutting carbon emissions, says a review of the UK's climate change plans.

It describes net zero as "the economic opportunity of the 21st century" that the country is "well placed" to take advantage of.

Achieving net zero would mean that the UK's carbon emissions were equal to or less than emissions that the country removed from the environment, and is considered vital to slow the rise in global temperatures caused by climate change.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore was tasked by Liz Truss during her short tenure as PM to consider how the UK could deliver "maximum economic growth and investment" alongside the government's climate change ambitions, while taking into consideration national energy security and the financial impact on the public.

His report, published on Friday, was positive about the opportunities presented by decarbonisation, but also warned that the UK would have to move "quickly" and "decisively", and was already missing out on opportunities due to a lack of skills and "inconsistent policy commitment".

In its plans for a "pro-growth, pro-business transition", the review said: "We must grab this opportunity, there is no future economy but a green economy."

Mr Skidmore's 340-page review involved extensive engagement across the country with businesses, local government, organisations and other individuals, and encompassed more than 50 roundtable meetings and 1,800 responses.

Greater certainty and stability was the key demand that came through in the consultation, with the report stating: "Overwhelmingly, the common message has been the need for clarity, certainty, consistency, and continuity from government."

The review sets out 25 actions that the government should take in the next two years. These include:

• Introducing legislation to phase out gas boilers by 2033, rather than 2035
• Longer-term funding certainty for major net zero projects, such as new nuclear power plants
• Implementing plans this year to increase solar and onshore wind generation, including a target of increasing solar generation fivefold by 2035
• Ending routine oil and gas flaring by 2025, five years earlier than previously planned.

Mr Skidmore proposed a "net zero local big bang" to give local authorities and communities the power to act faster. This may prove controversial as the government has already attempted to introduce changes to planning laws and was met with opposition within its own ranks.

Councils would have to take account of net zero targets when making planning decisions and allow them to impose tougher requirements in some areas.

The review also called for communities to see more direct benefits from renewable energy projects in their areas.

Read more:
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Lord Stern, whose 2006 review of the economics of climate change was one of the attempts by government to focus on the issue, welcomed Mr Skidmore's proposals.

He said: "I hope the prime minister and his government will respond to the review with the urgency and scale required to prevent this enormous economic opportunity from slipping through our fingers.

"This transition, and the investment and innovation it embodies, are at the core of the UK's growth story for the coming decade."

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Mr Skidmore said: "As the report explains, net zero is a huge investment opportunity for the UK and I have sought to set out the positive case for why we should be making it easier to invest in sustainable and renewable energy.

"I hope that the 'Mission Zero' report will be recognised as an opportunity to continue to lead internationally on our net zero ambitions."

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, said: "The government must get on board with it, if it expects to remain competitive internationally.

"The prime minister must listen to the call for speedier and tougher action and turn up the dial on the UK failing climate efforts."

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