A Race to Lead or a Risk to Follow
What’s it about and what are the conclusions?
The Net Zero Review, established three months ago and authored by Chris Skidmore OBE, aimed to find ways for the UK to achieve its net zero commitments in a more affordable and efficient manner. It is a bit of a lump at 340 pages, but hopefully this summary is useful and converts into action - which seems to be the intention - otherwise it’s just another report, with more suggestions, policies and ‘missions’. Ultimately this should help us use less energy, be more efficient and all whilst maintaining a strong economy.
The report highlights the international opportunity for future investment and economic growth that net zero presents, and points out that the UK must seize this opportunity if it is to maintain its leadership on climate action and compete with other nations making strategic decisions over their own energy transitions. According to Chris, we are now in a net zero race and delay or maintaining the status quo is not an option. The UK can either lead and seek the ‘first-mover’ advantage, or risk witnessing opportunities for jobs, infrastructure and investments go elsewhere in the world.
Delivering on those [net zero] challenges and meeting those opportunities is what I hope this Review has been able to achieve. Chris Skidmore OBE
To effectively deliver net zero investments, stable, long-term programmes are required, rather than piecemeal, short-term projects. The review calls for a new approach to the Net Zero Strategy, which identifies stable ten-year missions that can be established across sectors, providing the vision and security for stakeholders and investors. This 'Mission Zero' approach should set out long-term plans across ten years, between 2025 to 2035. As well as the longer term missions, there are suggestions for more immediate policies, such as the '25 by 2025' - twenty-five policies that could be realistically delivered by 2025. The report calls for immediate ‘no-regrets’ policy options and ‘no-excuses’ policy requirements to maintain its progress and signal the government's intent to deliver on net zero and remove the barriers preventing businesses and industries from going further and faster.
10 ten-year Missions & x25 short-term policies
The missions for 2025 to 2035 are:
Grid and Infrastructure
Energy Intensives and Industry
Circular Economy and Waste
Net Zero Local Big Bang
Energy Efficiency for Households
Net Zero Nature
R&D and Innovation
I won’t list out all 25 short term policies, but to give you a flavour, item 17 is focused on the Circular Economy. It recommends that a task force is established consisting of various public sector organisations to collaborate with industry, identifying obstacles and opportunities for CE business models in priority sectors. Interestingly, it mentions Extended Producer Responsibility to encourage reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and rental.
6 Key Pillars
After an introduction and scene-setting first part (p18-34), the second part (p36-288) of the review outlines the plan to achieve the opportunities in six key Pillars:
Pillar 1 - Strategy: Sets out a sustainable industrial strategy framework to deliver growth and jobs in the net zero transition. It covers the enabling infrastructure for net zero, including investment environment, government structures, delivery mechanisms, and the UK's role internationally.
Pillar 2 - Clean Power: Focuses on clean power and recommends specific actions to unblock the pipeline, such as a re-think of energy infrastructure, a solar and onshore wind ‘revolution’, plus greater policy and regulatory certainty for new technologies like CCUS and Hydrogen. There is mention of Nuclear reform.
Pillar 3 - Economic Opportunity: Highlights the economic opportunities and challenges for decarbonisation across sectors, and recommends specific actions to give greater business and investor certainty to decarbonise faster.
Pillar 4 - Governance: Outlines how to unlock local action by reforming the relationship between local and central government, making sure the planning system supports net zero, and turbocharging community energy and action.
Pillar 5 - Individuals: Discusses the role of individuals in the transition, and how they can be supported to make green choices, focusing on empowering people with information, lowering upfront costs of new technologies, and ensuring accessibility of benefits for everyone.
Pillar 6 - R&D: Looks ahead and outlines how to ensure relevant R&D and technologies are in place at the right time, implement a long-term plan for effectively pricing carbon, and maintain the UK's position as an international leader and collaborator in the net zero transition.
There’s a lot in this report. But it does give some signals as to what might be coming down the tracks in terms of regulation.
Take offsets for example - I searched this term and discovered a recommendation that “Government should endorse international Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCMs) standards as soon as possible and consult on formally adopting regulated standards for VCMs and setting up a regulator for carbon credits and offsets by 2024”. Seems they realise the offset space is fragmented and lacking transparency (to the detriment of the emerging carbon market) and they want to change that.