Net zero review urges faster, clearer action on climate change

The Government has been urged to go “further and faster” on cutting carbon emissions with the publication of a review of the UK’s net zero plans.

The review, carried out by Tory MP Chris Skidmore and published on Friday, described net zero as “the economic opportunity of the 21st century” and said the UK was “well placed” to take advantage of the opportunities presented by decarbonisation.

But it also warned that the UK would have to move “quickly” and “decisively”, and opportunities were already being missed thanks to a lack of skills and “inconsistent policy commitment”.

Setting out 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.”

Cabinet meeting
Former energy minister Chris Skidmore was asked to conduct the review by Liz Truss’s government (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Mr Skidmore was commissioned by Liz Truss’s government in September to consider how the country could deliver “maximum economic growth and investment” alongside the Government’s climate change ambitions, while also considering the need for energy security and the costs for the public.

His 340-page review follows extensive engagement across the country including more than 1,800 responses and 50 roundtable meetings with businesses, local government, organisations and other individuals.

It found that a key demand from across the country had been for greater certainty and stability, and said: “Overwhelmingly, the common message has been the need for clarity, certainty, consistency, and continuity from government.”

As well as setting out long-term goals, the review details 25 actions that the Government should take in the next two years. These include:

– Legislating to phase out gas boilers by 2033, rather than 2035;

– Providing longer-term funding certainty for major net zero projects, including 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, rather than 2030.

ENVIRONMENT Climate
(PA Graphics)

Mr Skidmore called for a “net zero local big bang” to give local authorities and communities the power to act faster on net zero.

This would involve wide-ranging changes to planning laws, an area where the Government has already encountered controversy.

The review proposes a new requirement for councils to take account of net zero targets when making planning decisions and allow them to impose tougher requirements in some areas.

Mr Skidmore also backed calls for communities to see more direct benefits from renewable energy projects in their areas and said funding for local net zero measures should be simpler and require less competitive bidding.

Lord Stern, who published an influential review of the economics of climate change in 2006, welcomed Mr Skidmore’s review.

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.”

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, welcomed the review.

“The Government must get on board with it, if it expects to remain competitive internationally,” he said.

“The Prime Minister must listen to the call for speedier and tougher action and turn up the dial on the UK failing climate efforts.”