UK Government urged to create net-zero delivery authority over concerns about ‘piecemeal’ approach

Think-tank Policy Connect, supported by a cross-party group of MPs, is calling on the UK Government to apply net-zero 'stress tests' to all major policy decisions and to create a net-zero delivery authority to help turn long-term climate goals into joined-up action.

UK Government urged to create net-zero delivery authority over concerns about ‘piecemeal’ approach

The recommendations are made in a new report, entitled ‘Connecting the Watts’ and published today (10 December).

While acknowledging that the publication of a string of policy packages in 2021, including the Heat and Buildings Strategy and Hydrogen Strategy, have helped to provide more clarity on how long-term climate pledges will be delivered, the report argues that more concrete plans for “clear and strong delivery leadership” are still needed.

As many organisations, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Trades Union Congress (TUC), have done recently, the report recommends that all Government departments publicly commit to using net-zero stress tests for all individual policies. This would prevent policies from being passed that could undermine the UK’s decarbonisation trajectory.

The report also recommends a refresh of how the central Government works with devolved Governments and local authorities to enable net-zero delivery on a regional and local basis. A National Audit Office (NAO) report in summer revealed a litany of issues faced by local authorities seeking funding and practical support for decarbonising buildings and transport.

Specifically, Policy Connect is recommending a net-zero mandate for local authorities, and new measures for involving councils, enterprise agencies and partnerships in the development of national strategies.

An overarching recommendation in the report is the creation of a new Net-Zero Delivery Authority – a watchdog tasked with monitoring and accelerating the delivery of key strategies. The Authority should facilitate a holistic, cross-departmental approach to net-zero policymaking and delivery, helping to deliver a coordinated approach on the ground.

Policy Connect proposes that the Authority should be sponsored jointly by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT). There have been various media reports this year alluding to a disconnect between HMT’s approach, and that of other departments, on net-zero. Sticking points have included home heating retrofitting and aviation.

Baxi Heating, E.On, Energy & Utilities Alliance, IGEM and Worcester Bosch Group are acting as sponsors for the Policy Connect report. Supporting the report from Parliament are Labour MP Darren Jones, Conservative MP Alexander Stafford and Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse.

Hobhouse said: “A coordinated response involving local people is vital for the UK to reach net-zero.

“My constituents have many questions about reaching net-zero and how this might impact their lives and this report sets out an impressive approach that connects local people to policymakers as the UK works towards a zero-carbon future.”

One of the public-facing measures proposed in the report is the creation of a network of independent consumer information hubs, which would provide tailored advice and information about the decarbonisation of things like heating and transport, and information about consumer protections for those installing low-carbon technologies.

Jones added: “The Government must not waste the momentum that we’ve gained from COP26.

“Now is the time for delivery, so I welcome the publication of this action-orientated report.”

Earlier this week, the CBI, TUC, E3G and WWF wrote to the UK Government urging new measures to deliver the Glasgow Climate Pact – the final COP26 outcome

COP26 President Alok Sharma this week agreed that Parliamentary Committees, including the Environmental Audit Committee, can continue to publicly scrutinise his work through to COP27 in Egypt next November.

Sarah George

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