Net zero: can the UK get back on track?
By Grace Gbadamosi, Intern
Headlines over the last few weeks have been inundated with reports that the Government are turning their backs on net zero pledges, after the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election. However, the Government have just recently published net zero business sector roadmap guidelines which show some hope for the green agenda within Whitehall. Though it doesn’t outweigh the seemingly political paralysis at the top of British politics, it does a highlight a more nuanced picture of the policy debate concerning net zero.
The new Net Zero Council brings together government with leaders of some of the world’s biggest banks, tech companies and energy companies, including NatWest, HSBC, and Siemens. They have developed a new framework to help businesses develop credible and robust action plans to reduce emissions in their sector, but will this be enough to restore the government’s green credentials in the eyes of the public?
The newly published guidelines call for a credible pathway which identify energy demand across the sector and sector level of readiness, a robust delivery plan which considers SMEs in delivery, mechanisms for collaboration and independent assessment of the roadmaps. What these guidelines don’t say, however, is what to do. Although a criterion is helpful in helping evaluate industry plans to transition to a Net Zero Strategy, it does very little to help companies create these action plans. Evidently, the Government has come to realise this, hence the new UK Business Climate Hub Coalition.
The UK Business Climate Hub Coalition has been created in partnership with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), the SME Climate Hub and some of the UK’s biggest businesses, high street banks and professional bodies including the British Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, National Grid and NatWest. The hub currently includes a free carbon calculator and other tools for companies to measure, track and report their emissions and save money by using less energy. It also offers advice on sourcing from green suppliers, reducing emissions on freight, cost-effective EV charging etc. Overall, the new Climate Hub appears to provide what businesses have been asking for, the road to Net Zero by 2050 and how to get there, but there is still a lot more to do.
Currently, the Government’s environmental strategy appears confused and divided, with some voices calling for more intervention and some far more climate-sceptic, leaving businesses unclear on which direction they should be heading and how fast. In March, the Government unveiled a fresh net zero strategy following a court decision that criticized its previous plan for lacking sufficient specifics on achieving climate goals. However, the UK's progress, according to the independent advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), has been labelled as “worryingly slow”.
The UK has made strides, as estimated greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 49% between the 1990 baseline and 2020 and initiatives like the roadmap guidelines and the Climate Hub are a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, the CCC estimates the cost of delivering Net Zero will require an extra £50bn of investment per year, by 2030.
What businesses, and the public, need to see from the current and future government is a renewed sense of urgency around the climate crisis and a policy direction that fully reflects this.