UK Government Lacks a Co-ordinated Net Zero Emissions Plan According to Parliamentary Committee

Written on the 8th March, 2021

A UK Parliamentary Committee has heavily criticised the UK Government for the lack of a co-ordinated plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.  On 5 March 2021, the Public Accounts Committee published its ‘Achieving Net Zero’ Report with a concise summary. It is published in full below:

Government lacks a plan for how it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by
2050 despite setting the target almost two years ago. At present, there is no coordinated
plan with clear milestones towards achieving the target, making it difficult for
Parliament and the general public to understand or scrutinise how the country is doing
in its efforts to achieve net zero emissions. Government intends to publish a plethora of
strategies this year setting out how it will reduce emissions in different sectors ranging
from transport to the heating of buildings culminating in an overall net zero strategy.

Departments are not yet sufficiently considering the impact on net zero when taking
forward projects and programmes. The Treasury has changed its guidance for policy
appraisal to ensure departments place greater emphasis on the environmental impacts
but has not set out how this will work in practice. Government is not yet ensuring its
activities to reduce UK emissions are not simply transferring emissions overseas, which
would undermine global efforts to tackle climate change.

As much as 62% of the future reduction in emissions will rely on individual choices
and behaviours, from day to day lifestyle choices to one off purchases such as replacing
boilers that use fossil fuels or buying an electric vehicle. Government has not yet
properly engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that achieving
net zero will require. Local authorities will also play a major role in the move to net
zero, and Government will need to engage more with local authorities about how they
can contribute, including ensuring they will have the necessary resources.”

The Report reflects a growing mood that the Government is not doing enough to tackle climate change.  The UK Government is advised by the excellent Climate Change Committee which produces regular reports on the actions that the UK Government needs to take to reach its targets.  However, the Government has not always taken the required action in these reports and, while the UK Prime Minister has announced a Ten Point Plan to tackle climate change, there has been little activity to put ‘flesh on the bones’ of this Plan.

Concerns have bee expressed about:

  • A Budget Statement last week by the Chancellor that didn’t take enough action on climate change. For instance, the Fuel Tax Duty on petrol and diesel vehicles remained unchanged for the eleventh year in a row.
  • The UK Government did not intervene in a planning application for a new coal mine in Cumbria which was approved by the County Council and would mine significant amounts of coal until 2050.  Under mounting pressure, Cumbria County Council has agreed to look at the issue again.
  • Concerns have been expressed at the impact on emissions over the £27 Billion roads programme that the Government has announced.
  • There seem to be frequent delays to climate change initiatives.  The  UK Hydrogen Strategy expected in February still has not been published.

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