Ahead of key climate change negotiations in Glasgow, the Government has published its long-awaited net zero strategy, which seeks to set out the how the UK can achieve its 2050 net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target.

The strategy has been a long time coming with the 2050 target having been set in legislation way back in 2019 when Theresa May was Prime Minister.

Ingredients for a successful strategy

Since then, the focus at IEMA has been on making the case for an economy wide approach to tackling GHG emissions. This is in recognition of the interdependencies that exist between different sectors and therefore the need for policy interventions to be effectively integrated.

We had also expected the strategy to clearly articulate a plan for the UK to deliver on its 6th Carbon Budget and to establish other key milestones and deliverables that demonstrate incrementally how the UK will arrive at the 2050 target.

Other key considerations around funding and financing have lingered since the legislation was enacted, alongside the need for a coherent approach on developing new green jobs and embedding ‘an all jobs greener’ mantra throughout the economy more widely.

So, what have we ended up with?

Policy commitments in the strategy include a pledge to phase out gas boilers in domestic properties by 2035 to tackle the huge impact that heating the nation’s homes has on emissions levels. This is welcome and long overdue.

There is also a commitment to invest in new nuclear power, with funding for Sizewell C, in Suffolk, expected to be announced prior to the next general election. Nuclear power can provide important baseload power and moving it onto a regulated asset base model could help to make it more affordable.

Driving forward the green jobs agenda is of particular concern for IEMA and an area that we have worked with government on during the development of the net zero strategy. We are pleased to see support for up to 440,000 jobs across net zero industries by 2030 and will continue to work collaboratively with government to ensure that these vital jobs are created.

But efforts to ‘green’ all jobs must be redoubled.

Overall, the strategy does improve on the narrowness of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for tackling climate change that was previously announced.

However, there is still more to be done in terms of funding the transition to net-zero and with the phasing of policy interventions to ensure that that this can happen as speedily as possible.

Expectations heading into COP26

The net zero strategy, notwithstanding these limitations, is a cause for optimism heading into COP26. It means that the UK is one of only a handful of nations that has developed a dedicated net zero strategy that is tied to a national target that is enshrined in law.

It builds on the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that was published last December and therefore provides a benchmark against which other countries can work in translating their own NDC’s into robust, long-term, strategies for managing GHG emissions and contributing to global efforts to mitigate and become more resilient to climate change.

This should be the ultimate goal for COP26 and we wait with our fingers crossed.

Forthcoming IEMA publications

Readers of this blog will be interested to know that IEMA will shortly be publishing some guidance on helping members (and other professionals working in the environment and sustainability profession) to better understand net zero as a concept and its practical application.

Watch this space.

Photo of Ben goodwin
Ben Goodwin

Head of Policy, IEMA

Ben joined IEMA towards the end of 2020 to take up the role of Head of Policy. In this capacity he looks after the delivery of IEMAs core policy and practice outputs across a range of environmental and sustainability issues.