Government has “no plan” for achieving net zero

Credit: PA David-Jones

The UK government lacks a plan for net zero, despite setting the target in law almost two years ago and being set to host COP26 later this year, a committee has said.

On 5 March, the Public Accounts Committee published a report, Achieving Net Zero, where it set out how there is no coordinated plan with clear milestones towards reaching the target. This makes it difficult for parliament and the public to understand or scrutinise how the UK is doing in pursuit of its goal. However, it did acknowledge 2021 will see a number of strategies published on how the government aims to cut emissions across different sectors, leading to an overall net zero strategy. These should be published by September, it said, including a clear timeline of net zero milestones and decision points.

It identified further issues in need of rectifying, including departments not yet sufficiently considering the impact of net zero when taking forward projects and programmes; a lack of government engagement with the public on the behavioural changes needed to achieve net zero; and a lack of engagement from government to local authorities on the role they have to play in delivering the 2050 target.

It made a series of recommendations, including developing a public engagement strategy within the next 12 months and a National Fiscal and Policy Framework, setting out government’s national responsibilities, the local and reginal responsibilities of local authorities, and how government will work alongside local authorities to secure the funding, skills, resources and outcomes necessary for achieving net zero. It also called for a set of clear metrics to be devised, providing a system-wide view of progress towards net zero and for BEIS to review how policies aimed at reducing UK-based emissions consider the risk of passing these emissions to other countries.

Elsewhere, it called for the Treasury to write to the committee within two months, outlining how it will ensure its guidance – such as the Green Book – will lead to departments adequately considering the impact of policy decisions on net zero; how all fiscal stimulus packages and infrastructure proposals will be stress tested against net zero; and what measures will be incorporated into the Green Book to make sure projects are only approved if they align with net zero.