UK government has 'no plan' for net-zero emissions, MPs warn

5th March 2021

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Nicola Forest

The UK government has no coordinated plan for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, despite setting the target in law almost two years ago, a cross-party group of MPs has warned today.

The Public Accounts Committee's latest report highlights how ministers have failed to publish clear milestones for environmental targets, and are still not sufficiently considering the impact on net zero when taking forward new projects.

Although the Treasury has changed the guidance on policy appraisal to ensure departments place greater emphasis on environmental impacts, the MPs warned that it is unclear how this will work in practice.

Moreover, the government is failing to ensure that efforts to cut emissions are not simply transferring these overseas, and has not engaged with the public on the behavioural and structural changes needed to achieve net zero.

Committee chair, Meg Hillier, said: “Government has set itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net-zero economy by 2050, but there is little sign that it understands how to get there, and almost two years later it still has no plan.

“Our response to climate change must be as joined up and integrated as the ecosystems we are trying to protect. We must see a clear path plotted, with interim goals set and reached – it will not do to dump our emissions on poorer countries to hit UK targets.”

The report recommends that key sector strategies, and an overarching net-zero strategy, be published by September 2021, and that they include a clear timeline of key net-zero milestones and decision points.

Ministers should also publish a clear set of metrics that provide a system-wide view of progress towards net zero. These must be reported on regularly from the end of 2021 in as close to real time as is feasible, and produced in a user-friendly manner for the public.

In addition, the MPs ask that the government outline how departments will adequately report the impact of policy decisions on net zero, review how policies help to prevent transferring emissions overseas, develop a public engagement strategy that sets out how communications will be coordinated, and publish a coherent National Fiscal and Policy Framework.

“Our new international trade deals, the levelling up agenda – all must fit in the plan to reach net zero,” Hillier said. “COP26 is a few months away; the eyes of the world, its scientists and policymakers are on the UK – big promises full of fine words won’t stand up.”

Image credit: iStock


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