Research and Policy Manager, Policy Connect
The UK Government has committed to delivering net zero by 2050. Yet, the route to 2050 looks far more like the M25 motorway at 5.30pm on a weekday.
You have a destination; you’re on your way, but it’s moving slowly; sometimes, you stop completely; and for the most part, you have no idea what’s happening further down the road. These are the thoughts and hurdles many organisations encounter when looking at the delivery of net zero by 2050.
At a roundtable at the House of Lords in October 2022, stakeholders from across a wide range of industries confirmed that government commitments were generally positive but voiced their concerns about a lack of concrete policy frameworks to support these commitments as well as a lack of clarity, direction and action resulting from high political turnover.
The Heat and Buildings Strategy and Net Zero Strategy set out ambitious targets and commitments to bring the UK in line to achieve its net zero goals. Achieving this needs clear and strong delivery leadership now, learning from the UK’s past successes such as the delivery of the world-acclaimed London Olympics 2012.
SMEs will require particular attention and support on the journey to net zero.
Net zero future for the UK
In December 2021, Policy Connect published its inquiry ‘Connecting the Watts,’ calling for a Net Zero Delivery Authority to provide delivery leadership in England to make net zero happen. This would ensure delivery of government strategies by facilitating cross-departmental action and cutting through the rapid political turnover rate. The authority would be the lynchpin in a whole-systems, coordinated approach that connects central to local, people to policymakers and the UK to its net zero carbon future.
The authority should be established in statute with the autonomy to make the necessary implementation decisions. It would need to work with the UK’s nations and regions to provide assurance to businesses and people about its longevity and clout. SMEs will require particular attention and support on the journey to net zero. Not enough support structures, incentives and direction are currently provided for the over 5 million SMEs in the UK, which account for 60% of employment and around 50% of turnover in the private sector. Understanding and helping them overcome their challenges around decarbonisation, which are closely linked to the UK skills and investment landscape, will be crucial for the net zero agenda.
Policy Connect will continue its work on this topic as part of its upcoming activities across its sustainability, manufacturing and skills policy programmes, which will tackle the themes of collaboration, consistency, skills and delivery.