Government to publish ‘comprehensive’ net-zero strategy in build up to COP26

The UK Government has responded to the latest Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress report, pledging to publish a "comprehensive" strategy that will detail how all parts of the economy will decarbonise in line with the national net-zero emissions target for 2050.

Government to publish ‘comprehensive’ net-zero strategy in build up to COP26

The CCC report, published in June, noted that producing a Covid-19 recovery plan which is fully aligned with the UK’s 2050 net-zero climate target is “absolutely necessary and entirely possible” with strong coordination across Whitehall.

The report’s headline conclusion was that there is a sizeable “policy deficit” between recent, current and planned short-term action, and what is required to put the UK on track to meet its long-term climate targets. Of particular concern to the CCC is the fact that no sector is prepared to adapt to 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100; the ongoing delays to the delivery of the National Infrastructure Strategy and Energy White Paper; the fact that the Buildings and Heat Strategy may be delayed and the lack of a clear carbon pricing trajectory.

But the report was, overall, optimistic, arguing that the delay to COP26 has created a “window to establish a credible and internationally-leading position” on climate change while also rebounding strongly from the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

Responding to the report, the Government has revealed that a national net-zero strategy will be published before the COP26 climate summit in November next year. The Government is confident that this strategy will create “new business opportunities and up to two million green jobs by 2030 across all regions of the UK”.

“We are pleased to announce today that, in addition to ambitious plans across key sectors of the economy, including an Energy White Paper, Transport Decarbonisation Plan and Heat and Buildings Strategy, we will publish a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy in the lead up to COP26,” Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Alok Sharma and Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Kwasi Kwarteng noted in the report.

“The strategy will set out the Government’s vision for transitioning to a net-zero economy, making the most of new growth and employment opportunities across the UK. These will raise ambition as we outline our path to hit our 2050 target.”

“As we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, we agree wholeheartedly with the CCC on the need to ensure that our recovery plans support our climate change response. By building back greener and better, we can achieve our climate goals, protect our biodiversity and natural capital, and sustain climate-resilient economic development, all in a fair and inclusive way.”

No date has been given for the publication of the report, but the Energy White Paper, Transport Decarbonisation Plan and Heat and Buildings Strategy are all mooted to be published over the coming months.

The CCC has confirmed it is amending its advisory reports to account for responses to the coronavirus pandemic, with a report on the UK’s sixth carbon budget pushed back to December. It is likely this advise will form the basis of the UK’s net-zero strategy.

The Government echoes the CCC report’s claims that delivering net-zero will help combat the financial damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The national low-carbon economy currently supports more than 460,000 jobs and could grow 11% annually between now and 2030, a move that will support two million jobs. Additionally, the Government response notes that innovation and “ambitious” policy could help the 12 low-carbon sectors contribute £27bn to the economy through domestic economic activity and £26bn through exports by 2050.

However, the Government recognises that certain parts of the economy will be at risk from the net-zero transition. Currently, around 10% of UK GVA comes from a group of sectors that are “potentially exposed to the transition”, according to the Government, while financial markets are “particularly exposed to fossil fuels”.

The CCC report included dedicated recommendations for individual departments for the first time, which has been welcomed by the Government. “We have sought to mirror the CCC’s progress report in our response, where possible, including by providing specific departmental responses to each of the recommendations,” the response notes. The HM Treasury’s Net Zero Review, for example, will consider spending alignment with net-zero.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns will see global emissions fall by around 8%. The UK Government states that national emissions will fall by a similar amount, but that this will be temporary and ambitious policies will be required to create a sustained decline in emissions.

“The Government is committed to working with international partners on a roadmap for global climate action between now and COP26 in November 2021. As COP26 Presidency, we will take the lead in supporting a green, inclusive and resilient recovery building on the principles of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals,” the report adds.

“We continue to press for much greater ambition around the world – more ambition to reduce emissions, more ambition to build resilience, and more ambition to cooperate and support each other.”

Matt Mace

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