HMRC sets 2040 net-zero target

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has set a net-zero target for 2040 - a decade ahead of the national deadline - and pledged to halve emissions from non-operational business travel as a first step.

HMRC sets 2040 net-zero target

The Department is developing roadmaps to address its direct emissions and to influence external action

In a statement delivered late last week, the Department’s director of communications Poli Stuart-Lacey said that the Covid-19 lockdown had provided insight as to how it might decarbonise its operations ahead of the Government’s national target.

The statement confirmed that HMRC is currently developing a roadmap to changing its internal models and processes to meet the new long-term goal. This plan will include measures to reduce emissions from commuting and transport, to improve energy efficiency and source renewable power for offices, and to drive staff behaviour change. HMRC will also calculate its climate-related risks.

All in all, HMRC believes it will need to halve emissions non-operational business travel against a 2019 baseline. Its business mileage was 93% lower in April 2020 than in April 2019, so it sees changes to transport as one of the first things to change. But Stuart-Lacey argued that keeping remote working at current levels is not the ideal solution.

“For many of us, working from home is not a permanent or an ideal solution – we lose that human connection, we’ve had to adapt home spaces for work, and we’ll see higher emissions and costs as a result of heating and running our homes for longer during the day,” she explained. “However, now we know what is possible and that will hopefully help us find a new balance in the future.”

Once the internal roadmap is complete, HMRC will develop plans to influence and support the broader transition to a net-zero economy. The plans will see the Department’s sustainability team and experts in environmental tax policy engaging with colleagues across HMRC and with civil servants across Whitehall.

Stuart-Lacey said that “being dragged” into net-zero by 2050 would likely require “more work and cost” for HMRC and other departments, meaning that all organisations should explore their capability to “achieve something greater, and much sooner”.

Government action

Other Government organisations with pre-2050 net-zero targets include the Environment Agency, which has a 2030 deadline. The Agency recently published a five-year plan which aims to get it on track to meeting this target.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has argued that the Covid-19 recovery period is fertile ground for Government departments to develop more ambitious targets and to develop sector-specific, shorter-term measures to support its long-term goal.

It believes 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 for alignment with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory – but that the £160bn recovery package and the UK’s position as COP26 host could increase ambitions and accelerate action.

Sarah George

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