Earlier this week the Institute for Government released its report entitled "Net Zero - How Government can meet its climate change target".
The report is an excellent read analysing (among other things) the scale of the challenge, what works and what does not with the current approach and what needs to be done to deliver Net Zero.
The report identifies seven requirements for the UK to achieve its target. It states "The absence of these has been a barrier to progress so far. Together they reflect the unique challenges of net zero: the need for action across all sectors, sustained over decades; the need to make complex and uncertain choices, and manage the interdependencies between those choices; and the profound time inconsistency problem – people must accept upfront costs in return for benefits which, in terms of preventing climate change at least, are distant and general."
Three of the seven particularly resonated with me:
- The need for consistent policy and regulatory frameworks in each sector. Much of the transition to net zero will need to be carried out by the private sector, not government – but businesses, investors and consumers need clarity to act and this needs to delivered by enduring and clear regulatory frameworks which actually deliver what is needed. My experience of working on the Green Deal has shown me what can happen when this is not done right;
- The capacity to co-ordinate action across the whole of government and between sectors. Net zero will require a blend of technologies and approaches. The central challenge will be what engineers call ‘system integration’. That means joining up the different technologies and different sectors. At Burges Salmon we have been seeking to join up our clients in different sectors to discuss this challenge and are holding a series of events to encourage this further.
- The need for a process that builds public and political consent for measures. I wrote a piece in January on the start of a Citizen's Assemble to look at the public appetite for introducing measures to address climate change (see here). Today the Assembly has made a number of recommendations which seem to show that the appetite of the public to take measures may go beyond that of the politicians.
At a time of uncertainty and lack of bandwidth in Government, the report serves as a helpful guide to addressing the political challenges in the delivery of the Net Zero target.
Meeting the commitment is a more difficult challenge than responding to the coronavirus crisis or getting Brexit done, and will require transformations in every sector of the UK economy, sustained investment over three decades and substantial changes to everyone’s lives.