Government commits to a Net Zero strategy ahead of COP26

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The government has announced their plans for a strategy which will set out their vision for transitioning to a net zero economy ahead of COP26 in November 2021.

This was part of the government’s official response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) progress report for 2020.

The government has not formally updated its official decarbonisation strategy since 2017, which was adopted before the UK increased its long term emissions target from 80 per cent cuts by 2050 to net zero.

In the official government response, Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, and Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister of State for Energy, commented: “In supporting families and businesses to recover from the pandemic, we cannot lose sight of our wider climate ambition and our legal obligation to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“As the CCC notes, the urgent need for action on climate change has not diminished and the significant changes required to our economy to achieve net zero have not been altered by the pandemic.

“We are pleased that the Committee has recognised the progress we have made over the last year in establishing an appropriate policy framework to deliver our net zero ambitions
across the whole UK economy.

“However, just as importantly, we have heard the strong message from the CCC that progress has been greater in some areas than others.

“While we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other major economy over the past two decades, we recognise that more needs to be done if we are to meet the size of our net zero and carbon budgets ambitions.

“We are pleased to announce that, in addition to ambitious plans across key sectors of the economy, including an Energy White Paper, Transport Decarbonisation Plan and Heat and Buildings Strategy, we will publish a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy in the lead up to
COP26.

“The strategy will set out the Government’s vision for transitioning to a net zero economy, making the most of new growth and employment opportunities across the UK.

“These will raise ambition as we outline our path to hit our 2050 target.”

Some of the findings of the 156-page response include:

  • The Government has announced that the Net Zero Review report will be published in spring 2021. In the meantime, HM Treasury will publish an interim report this autumn, offering initial findings and analysis for the Review.
  • Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy is to be published in spring 2021.
  • The UK Hydrogen Strategy is set to be published in spring 2021.
  • Part 2 of the National Food Strategy is set to be published in spring 2021.
  • The Welsh Government plans to update the targets in its climate legislation in spring 2021
  • A Net Zero Carbon Hospital Standard is being developed to ensure all new build hospitals are built to a zero carbon standard which is due to be completed in spring 2021. This will include the 40 new hospitals that are due to be built at part of the Governments Health Infrastructure Plan.
  • A new Biomass Strategy is set to be published in 2022.
  • The next Contracts for Difference auction for renewables projects is set to take place in late 2021, and a new round would be held every two years.
  • The Energy White Paper is set to be published this autumn.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, commented on the government response: “We’re starting to see some of the cogs turning across central Government to get the Net Zero transition moving.

“There has been some progress in the last four months but much of what is promised in this document is just that: a promise.

“We’re pleased to see plans for a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy before next year’s COP confirmed, and new proposals in the works for hydrogen, industry and biomass.

“These must deliver alongside ambitious policies required from the Energy White Paper, the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan and the Environment and Agriculture Bills.

“There’s clearly more work to do, and we’ll want to see the policies attached to these plans very soon.”

Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Trade Association, added: “The Government has taken constructive steps on what will undoubtedly be a long road and the announcement of a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy is welcome.

“What we need to see in that strategy is the same level of ambition for solar and battery storage as there has been for wind.

“Britain needs to triple its solar capacity in the next decade in order to get on track for net zero.”