An influential group of MPs has accused the government of having no clear plan for funding the transition to net zero emissions by 2050.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which scrutinises government spending, said there was no reliable estimate of the cost of the net zero policy.
The government published its net zero strategy in October 2021. This included policies for 100% of clean electricity by 2035, targets for hydrogen production and sustainable aviation, grants for heat pumps and an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.
But a new report from the PAC this morning criticised ministers for vague performance measures, a lack of overall budget and a limited assessment of how much net zero measures will cost consumers. It said:
“To publish policy without commensurate funding merely amounts to an aspiration not a real intention by government.”
The report said the government was relying on consumers to change their behaviour rapidly. But there was uncertainty about whether this would happen.
The net zero strategy also relied heavily on private investment. But the committee said government had a poor record of providing investor confidence.
There was also a risk that policies to drive down emissions in the UK might increase emissions elsewhere, the committee said.
The PAC raised concerns about a lack of skills in the private sector and civil service to deliver net zero. And it criticised government’s “apparent lack of urgency” in explaining how local authorities would be involved in delivering the strategy.
“government has too often pursued stop-start strategies which undermine confidence for business, investors and consumers in committing to measures which would reduce carbon emissions – especially when some green alternatives are still significantly more expensive than current options.”
The committee’s chair, Dame Meg Hillier, said:
“Government is relying heavily on rapidly changing consumer behaviours and technological innovations to drive down the costs of green options, but it is not clear how it will support and encourage consumers to purchase greener products or incentivise businesses and drive change.
“Every government department has a responsibility for delivering policies towards the target of net zero but two years after enshrining the ‘Net Zero’ by 2050 target in law, the government has unveiled a plan without answers to the key questions of how it will fund the transition to net zero – including how it replace significant income from taxes such as fuel duty.”
She said the net zero strategy required government, regulators, business and consumers to work together.
“A top-down strategy from government won’t deliver on its own. There is a risk that a series of disconnected initiatives announced by central government will not bring about the changes that are now set out in law.”
The PAC called on government to set out detailed measures to:
- Track, report and scrutinise progress on implementing net zero policies
- Monitor consumer take-up relative to expectations
- Check how quickly technology costs fell and how much private investment was attracted
- Set out the role of local authorities in achieving net zero
- Increase public awareness of consumption emissions