‘Pro growth and pro business’: UK Government officially kick-starts net-zero review

New Prime Minister Liz Truss’s promised review of the UK’s plans to reach its 2050 net-zero emissions commitment has officially launched, with a focus on ensuring the transition boosts economic growth and is not at odds with energy security.

‘Pro growth and pro business’: UK Government officially kick-starts net-zero review

MPs expressed concerns over a lack of departmental ownership of net-zero

The three-month review, launched today, is being spearheaded by Chris Skidmore MP. Skidmore served as a Minster of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) from December 2018 to July 2019, then again from September 2019 to February 2020.

He has played an important role in opposing the so-called Net-Zero Scrutiny group of Conservative MPs who argue that the cost of the transition will be too high. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) previously priced the transition at 1-2% of GDP, before amending this to 0.5%-1% of GDP in light of falling cleantech costs.

In the review, as expected, the focus will be on assessing which pathway to net-zero will bear the greatest economic benefits.

BEIS has stated that it will examine which approaches are the most “pro-business, pro-growth and economically efficient”. It also wants to better examine the economic costs and benefits of emerging technologies deemed necessary to the transition.

BEIS has stated that the UK’s 2050 target, which is legally binding, will remain in place. However, BEIS has stated an intention to “make sure investment continues to… increase energy security”. Truss’s approach to this issue so far has focused heavily on fossil fuels produced onshore and offshore in the UK, worrying climate analysts and green campaigners.

Skidmore and his team will publish a set of recommendations to the Government by the end of 2022. There will be recommendations for energy, land-use and transport.

”I want to ensure that net zero isn’t just viewed as the right thing to do for our environment- but becomes an essential driver of economic growth,” Skidmore said.

“This review seeks to ‘double down’ on how we can ensure that our energy transition happens at the same time as maximising the economic opportunity for businesses and households across the country, providing huge opportunities for innovation, investment, exports and jobs.”

Net Zero Strategy

In announcing the review, BEIS stated that the Government’s Net Zero Strategy needs to be updated due to “major changes to the economic and political landscape” due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While this has certainly played a significant role in increasing wholesale fossil energy prices across Europe, this statement only tells half of the story.

Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that the Strategy is “unlawful”, as it does not detail measures significant to decarbonise any sector of the economy in line with the UK’s 2050 target and interim carbon budgets. At the ruling in July, the Court ruled that the Strategy needs to be refined and re-issued by the end of March 2023.

One key issue with the Strategy is that of jobs and skills. The UK Government has pledged that there will be two million green jobs domestically by 2030, but the Strategy details the creation of some 440,000. Added to the existing jobs in these fields, there is still a gap of more than a million roles.

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