The Government has published its Net Zero Growth Plan detailing the recommendations which will be incorporated into policy following Chris Skidmore’s Independent Review of the Net-Zero Strategy which detailed 129 recommendations across key sectors including the built environment, renewable energy, green finance, and nature. The report also delivers on the Government’s statutory obligation to respond to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) 2022 Progress Report which details a carbon budget delivery update. The report is aimed at strengthening the delivery of the UK’s net-zero goal.

The Government has focussed its attention on twenty-five recommendations for action by the end of 2025 committing to action against twenty-three including establishing an industry taskforce for solar power, creating ‘Great British Nuclear’ committing to defining a clear approach to gas as against electricity rebalancing by 2024.

Given that the original Net-Zero Strategy was judged to be unlawful by the High Court, the new report attempts to incorporate the recommendations to bring considerable progress to the UK’s Net-Zero Strategy.

It is no surprise that the document dos does not reference the court ruling but reinforces the Government’s message that it believes it is on the right path to Net Zero with UK emissions having fallen by 48% between 1990 and 2021 against an economy growth of 65%. The Government also highlights that it has leveraged around £100bn of private investment to support more than 480,000 jobs by 2030.

The Growth Plan features many commitments to issue net-zero roadmaps for key sectors and technologies that will “articulate investment needs by sector and summarise the relevant government policy and opportunities to support investment decisions.”

The Growth Plan claims that decarbonising the power sector while meeting a potential 60% increase in electricity demand in the next decade could bring forward over £300bn of investment from both the private and public sectors.An offshore wind roadmap has already been published and the Government states this will be followed by similar documents for heat pumps, as well as updated roadmaps on CCUS, and hydrogen.

With buildings accounting for around 20% of total UK emissions, having increased by 5% since 2019, the Growth Plan states that emissions could fall by 7% on average over 2023- 27, 25-37% by 2030 and 47-61% on average over 2033-37. The Government is yet to provide details on how this will be achieved.

The Growth Plan does agree to implement an important recommendation to expand the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to 2028. New regulatory and spending measures will also be introduced to “make heat pumps as cheap to buy and run as fossil fuel boilers” and to install at least 60,000 heat pumps annually by 2028. Alongside this a consultation on the Future Homes Standard and Future Building Standard will be issued at in 2023, whilst a regulatory framework for heat networks and zoning will be established by 2025.

In 2021 transport emissions accounted for 25% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. The Growth Plan estimates that emissions could fall by 2% on average over 2023-27 and further in the coming years. The Growth Plan references the commitments already made in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, and features new commitments based on the CCC report and the Skidmore Review. The Growth Plan commits the Government to publish a Low Carbon Fuels Strategy in 2023 defining the role that these fuels will play in reaching the 2050 net-zero target.

On the UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS), the Government will respond to its consultation on next steps and introduce legislation on the ETS beyond 2030 to “give the private sector the certainty they need to invest in decarbonisation”. Also, the Government will consider whether greenhouse gas removals should be incorporated into the UK ETS.

The Growth Plan notes that the Government plans to replace 50TWh of fossil fuels per year by 2035 to support industrial fuel switching and that electrification to reduce annual emissions by 2050. There will be a consultation in 2023 to examine the barriers to electrification, including securing supply the of electricity and access to the grid to facilitate the transition.

With the substantial number of actions committed to within the report, it will be interesting to see how the Government moves forward in 2023 to begin to deliver against these and whether there will be a cohesive and synchronised programme of actions to ensure that effective progress is made where this has been lacking in recent years. It is time for the government to ensure that it brings substance, value, and direction so plans are actionable rather than promises made without understanding of how this will be achieved.

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