Ovo Energy boss kick-starts campaign for general carbon charge

Ovo Energy's chief executive and founder Stephen Fitzpatrick has launched a new campaign aimed at bolstering the UK's emissions policies on the road to net-zero.

Fitzpatrick founded Ovo Energy in 2009 and is also the president of Vertical Aerospace, a start-up developing innovative low-emission aircraft 

Fitzpatrick founded Ovo Energy in 2009 and is also the president of Vertical Aerospace, a start-up developing innovative low-emission aircraft 

Called ZeroC and backed by £1m of Fitzpatrick’s own money, the campaign calls on the next Prime Minister to enshrine a general carbon price into UK. Fitzpatrick believes that the net-zero target will not be met by its 2050 deadline unless such a policy is implemented.

As an EU Member state, the UK is currently a member of the bloc’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), where the highest carbon price per tonne recorded over the past decade has been €26.89. However, only utilities, heavy industry companies and firms with factories are required to pay. Moreover, recent research from think-tank Carbon tracker concluded that carbon prices would need to rise to around €40 per tonne in order to render most European coal plants unprofitable.

ZeroC is therefore calling for the UK’s next Prime Minister, due to be selected at the end of this month, to introduce a carbon “charge” for all products and services, based on the emissions generated over their life-cycle. Money raised through the charge proposed by the campaign group would be paid at the point of sale and returned to the general public in the form of a “carbon dividend”.

This charge model is part of the campaign group’s overarching aim of ensuring that the lowest-cost solutions to complete decarbonisation are prioritised and that the transition to net-zero is “just” – not excluding any social groups.

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), net-zero can be achieved with 1-2% of GDP in 2050, the same funding pot currently allocated to the UK’s original Climate Change Act 2008 commitments. However, Fitzpatrick is just one of many high-profile figures to have voiced concerns about how this financial responsibility will be divided over fears the poorest may be the hardest hit.

“[Net -zero carbon emissions by 2050] is an ambitious undertaking and one with overwhelming public support,” Fitzpatrick said. “Now we need a framework to support and accelerate the transition - one which does not unfairly burden those least able to pay.

“A general carbon charge is not a silver bullet to tackling climate change but it’s a pivotal part of the solution. We will still need new regulations and policies, but adopting carbon pricing will help keep these interventions to a minimum.”

Through ZeroC, Fitzpatrick is hoping to connect and mobilise a network of business leaders, scientists and economists in calling for a “just” transition to net-zero, centred around a general carbon charge. This group will lobby for the Government to implement the policy before the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2020.  

Sarah George



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