Questions raised about £1trn adaptation cost to net zero carbon economy

The BEIS committee in the Commons is questioning the Chancellor on the net zero carbon economy costs as part of its investigation into the Clean Growth Strategy

Chair of the committee, Rachel Reeves, has put a number of questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, following his claim last month that it would cost the UK economy around £1trn to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

These questions include Treasury modelling on public expenditure savings arising from net-zero – for example, reduced NHS spending from healthier diets and reduced air pollution; how the Treasury plans to fund the transition to net zero; and the strategy to ensure the fair distribution of costs and benefits. It also quizzed the Chancellor on how a five-year review of the net zero target will be conducted.

The letter comes ahead of a BEIS committee session on net zero with the chair also writing to Treasury minister Chris Skidmore. She asked the minister, who will attend the session, for his thoughts on the Government’s approach to net zero by 2050 – including plans for international aviation and shipping, an issue raised by youth climate striker Greta Thunberg and which currently sits outside of national emissions reporting.

Net zero

The hearings by the committee are part of its ongoing work to interrogate the government’s Clean Growth Strategy as well as the Environmental Audit Committee’s complementary work on greening government commitments.

The Clean Growth Strategy, launched in 2017, details how the government will make multi-billion-pound investments into low-carbon innovations and household energy-efficiency that will push the UK towards its future carbon budgets.

But progress has been slow with Carbon Capture technology and the BEIS committee has previously reported that the government’s umbrella Industrial Strategy is “not sufficient” to support decarbonisation, future-proofing and productivity-boosting throughout Britain’s “everyday economy” rather than just high tech sectors, with no sector-wide deals for retail and hospitality produced yet.

The questions about net zero funding also follow work the committee has already done on net zero including a session on 18 June which included protest movement Extinction Rebellion, WWF, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Last week the Commons voted the net zero carbon target into law, which followed a previous debate on a climate emergency also resulting in a declaration across the national government in Westminister as well as the devolved administrations of Scotland and Wales.  

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James Evison

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