UK yet to confront scale of net zero task, think tank warns

If the UK’s 2050 net zero commitment is to be credible, then stronger leadership and coordination from the Prime Minister is needed, according to a think tank.

On 7 September, the Institute for Government published a report, Net Zero, How government can meet its climate change target, in which it warned there is little evidence that the “enormous scale of the task ahead” to reach net zero emissions by 2050 has been acknowledged by the government and the politicians who voted for the new target. A lack of coordinated policies, together with changes of direction, a failure to gain public consent for measures and too little engineering expertise and delivery has left the UK “well off track” to meet its target.

It made a series of recommendations for government, which include taking responsibility for net zero away from BEIS and, instead, creating a new net zero unit in the Cabinet Office with a senior Cabinet Office minister given responsibility for net zero. It also called for the Treasury to make net zero a “big theme” of the spending review and to produce a tax strategy to support it; to build on parliament’s climate assembly initiative to maintain public support for action; and to create a climate change cadre, with science and engineering expertise at its core, within the civil service.

It further advocated for government to build on the successful model of the Olympic Delivery Authority to ensure big changes, such as the housing retrofit and switch to electric vehicles, happen smoothly; and to support the creation of a dedicated parliamentary net zero committee to hold government to account on progress in reducing emissions.

Institute for Government