The UK Government “lacks a plan” on how to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, despite setting the target in law almost two years ago, a committee of MPs argued today.
A report from the Public Accounts Committee said there was no coordinated strategy with clear milestones for achieving the target by 2050.
- Government departments were not sufficiently considering the impact of net zero on projects and programmes
- Treasury guidance to departments to put more emphasis on environmental impacts had not shown how this would work in practice
- Government wasn’t checking that activities to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint were not transferring emissions overseas
- Up to 62% of emissions cuts would rely on individual choices but ministers have not yet engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that will be needed
- Ministers should work more with local authorities and give them adequate resources
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said the world would be watching the UK when it hosted the UN COP26 climate conference in November:
“Government has set itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net zero economy by 2050 – but there is little sign that it understands how to get there and almost two years later it still has no plan.
“Our response to climate change must be as joined up and integrated as the ecosystems we are trying to protect.
“We must see a clear path plotted, with interim goals set and reached – it will not do to dump our emissions on poorer countries to hit UK targets.
“Our new international trade deals, the levelling up agenda – all must fit in the plan to reach net zero.
“COP26 is a few months away; the eyes of the world, its scientists and policymakers are on the UK – big promises full of fine words won’t stand up.”
The committee’s recommendations included:
Key strategies. The government should publish key strategies by September 2021 for achieving net zero. There should be a timeline of key milestones and decision points. The government currently plans to launch the net zero strategy before COP 26. This would be nearly two-and-a-half years after parliament approved the net zero plans.
Measures on progress. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is responsible for achieving net zero, should publish measures to chart progress. These should include reporting from the end of 2021 on progress of emissions levels, compared to expectations, within each sector.
Treasury guidance. The Treasury should set out, within two months, how its guidance will lead to departments adequately considering and reporting the impact of policy decisions on net zero. The report also calls for information on what measures will be included in the Green Book to ensure projects are approved only if they align with the 2050 net zero target.
Exporting emissions. BEIS should review how policies aimed at reducing UK-based emissions take into account the risk that emissions are passed to other countries. The department should also explore how to make the level of emissions in manufacture of imported goods are made more transparent.
Communication of lifestyle changes. Within the next 12 months, BEIS should develop a public engagement strategy on how government communications about individual behaviour change would be coordinated.
Local authorities’ role. Government should be clear about its responsibilities and those of local authorities. It should be clear about government proposes to work with local authorities to secure the funding, skills, resources and outcomes required for net zero.