January 30, 2023

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‘A major pro-business opportunity’: UK’s green economy reacts to the Skidmore Net-Zero Review

The Mission Zero report was published on Friday by MP Chris Skidmore, based on the 1,800 responses from businesses and climate experts, making it one of the largest engagement exercises on net-zero in the UK.

It was commissioned by the UK Government late last year, under Liz Truss, who wanted to assess the best way for the UK to reach its legally binding 2050 climate target while maximising opportunities for economic growth, business prosperity, innovation and social sustainability. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has already concluded that the transition can be delivered with 0.5-1% of GDP if properly managed.

The message from the new Review is clear – that the UK Government’s current approach is neither aligned with climate science, nor designed to maximise the economic and social opportunities of the transition. It details a cocktail of inconsistent policies, mismanaged reporting structures and a lack of detail against existing commitments that could cause “significant risks” in the form of delays and added costs.

It sets out more than 100 policy interventions that could help to turn this trend on its head, unlocking green economic growth and contributing to levelling up ambitions. Many of these could be made in the Budget, due in March, or the court-ordered update to the Net-Zero Strategy.

You can read edie’s full news story on the review here, summarising its 129 recommendations to policymakers and outlining what will happen next in terms of the Government’s response.

As we digest and analyse these recommendations, so are notable figures and groups across the UK’s green economy. Here, we round up the latest reaction.

WWF UK’s chief executive Tanya Steele:

“This comprehensive review shows the grass is greener with net-zero. Not only is it good for the climate, nature and our health, but it’s the key to our future prosperity. It’s concerning that the UK Government has been stop-start in its policies and implementation plans for net zero across renewable energy, food and farming and economic security – at a time we’ve never needed it more.

“WWF now urges the Government to take on the Review’s recommendations and deliver on its promise to meet the net zero target with a clear strategy – helping not only the planet, but families struggling through a cost-of-living crisis.”

E3G’s campaigns director Ed Matthew:

“This review has confirmed what business already knows. Net zero is not only essential to human survival, it is the greatest economic opportunity of our time. To unleash this extraordinary potential requires net-zero to be put at the heart of the government’s economic mission, policies and investment. The Prime Minister must act immediately to deliver Mission Zero.”

The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho:

 “The Skidmore Review is absolutely right to emphasise that the net-zero transition is a major pro-business and pro-investment opportunity and that delaying this transition will increase costs and risk the UK missing out on the significant economic opportunities it presents. Businesses have long recognised this, which is reflected in the rapidly growing number of businesses that are taking on ambitious net zero emission targets backed by clear delivery strategies. In the challenging economic and social context currently faced by the UK, a rapid shift towards net-zero offers much-needed investment, competitiveness and job creation opportunities for UK businesses and investors in varied sectors such as construction, energy, manufacturing, engineering, transport and finance.

“The findings and recommendations of the Skidmore Review are based on an impressive degree of engagement with businesses and civil society, providing a direct window into what businesses, public bodies and civil society need from the UK Government to deliver net-zero and secure the economic opportunities associated with it. The Government should use the recommendations of this review to produce a strengthened Net Zero Strategy early this year. It should also crack on with some of the most pressing policy recommendations highlighted in the report, such as developing grid infrastructure, full power sector decarbonisation, energy efficiency in homes, resource efficiency, and business models to support the rollout of carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and other low carbon solutions urgently needed by heavy industry.

“We welcome the fact that the Skidmore review has shed light on the importance of making clear policy decisions on a range of cross-cutting issues that are critical to get to net-zero but often overlooked. In particular, accelerating the rollout of power grid infrastructure, aligning planning reforms with the net zero target, setting up an Office for Net Zero Delivery, implementing measures to restore the natural environment, and focusing on improving resource efficiency across the economy are all essential to meet the UK’s emission reduction targets in a way that is timely, co-ordinated and cost-effective.”

The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology’s (REA) chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska:

“This Review must finally settle any political and economic debate as to why net-zero is essential. This has to mark a watershed moment, ending political hesitation and offering the catalyst to a cleaner, more prosperous future.

“The Net Zero Review, above all else, makes it clear that the energy transition is as much an economic opportunity as an environmental imperative and that action must be accelerated.

“The REA warmly welcomes the recognition of the need for much more renewable deployment, highlighting the demand for a complete range of renewable and clean technologies to all play their part, as well as the transition to a circular economy.”

Net-Zero North West’s chair Carl Ennis:

“We congratulate Mr Skidmore and his team for a comprehensive and insightful report.  As the report notes, net-zero is the economic opportunity of the 21st century and the UK is well placed to benefit. But as an international company, we see that there is a global race for green investment and the UK runs the risk of falling behind or losing out completely in some areas.  It is not that there is a lack of ideas or strategies. Rather, we need the Government to deliver on existing plans and provide greater policy certainty to unlock business investment.  We must also stop our siloed approach to this problem, as we do in the decarbonisation of cities, for example and adopt whole systems solutions. We hope the Government will take on board the messages in this report and adopt its recommendations.”

WSP’s executive director Rachel Skinner, also former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers:

“‘Mission Zero’ answers the exam question about whether the UK’s pursuit of net zero is worth it. In a word: ‘Yes’.  Business, the public sector and local communities have spoken; there is a clear mandate for climate action towards net zero. Speeding up investment and effort will reduce cost and climate risk, while helping the UK hold onto its leadership position on the world stage. Through an infrastructure and built environment lens, we know that the changes required – physical and digital, cultural and behavioural, local and national – are key to unlocking net zero and its wider benefits for growth, skills and resilience.

“The Skidmore Review helps to cut through net-zero complexity, recognising that success will rely as much on local change through delegation, clear information, meaningful incentives and trust as it does on clear, stable Government commitment to delivery.”

UK100’s chief executive Polly Billington:

“This independent review confirms what UK100 has been saying for years: local authorities are the key to achieving the UK’s net-zero goals. We were delighted to work with Chris Skidmore MP on the review and welcome it, particularly the recommendation to end the disjointed mess of short-term, competitive local authority funding pots. This move would help communities maximise the economic and social benefits of Net Zero while making the most cost-effective use of resources.

“UK100 is committed to empowering local leaders to deliver on the UK’s ambitious climate targets, but we need central government to take heed of the Net Zero Review’s findings and commit to unlocking the ambition of local authorities to deliver the most successful version of [the transition].”

The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson:

“We welcome [this review] and [the] timely findings about the economic opportunities of net-zero. 2022 showed us the urgency of transitioning to net zero and away from fossil fuels: flooding in Pakistan, drought in the Horn of Africa, the energy crisis because of the Ukraine war, heatwaves in the UK, dried-up riverbeds in Europe and the US – the impacts of climate change are everywhere.

“Companies we work with, as well as many others, are already taking important steps to transition away from fossil fuels and toward a net-zero future. But they need long-term clarity and certainty from the UK and other governments, to be able to confidently speed up their transition, and by extension the transition of the United Kingdom.”

“So, the UK Government must go full throttle and invest in innovative renewable energy projects, break down barriers to electric driving by upgrading the grid and infrastructure, stimulate zero-carbon steel and concrete – all of which will drive new green technologies and jobs. That will boost the economy and position the UK as a global leader in the net zero future. Every purchasing decision, every investment decision, and every policy decision of this government must have climate front and centre – it can’t afford not to.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas:

“The overriding message from this review is one of urgency. We don’t have a moment to lose in our race to tackle the climate emergency – yet this Tory Government is content to flip-flop on fracking, greenlight new oil and gas and approve a climate-busting coal mine.

“If this review is to be met with any level of seriousness within Whitehall, then it has to spell an end to the Government’s current approach of ducking, dodging and delaying action.”

Environmental Audit Committee chairman Philip Dunne MP:

“Skidmore’s review demonstrates, unequivocally, the countless opportunities net-zero brings. His emphasis on clarity and leadership cannot be understated.

“In some areas the UK Government has made major advances in tackling climate change, and its stated ambition is undoubted. But inconsistent policies and a lack of coherence across Government in implementation, with little effective cross-departmental governance, does not give confidence to those sectors that will drive real change and develop green skills.

“Getting the tools in place to deliver net zero makes economic sense, and can cement our role as a world leader in tackling climate change. The benefits are too critical to get this wrong.

“The review reflects many issues the Environmental Audit Committee has been calling for over the years.”

IEMA’s deputy chief executive and director of policy and external affairs, Martin Baxter:

“We welcome the publication of the review and the clear message that climate action is good for economic competitiveness and our future prosperity. Many of its recommendations echo what IEMA believes needs to happen if we are to meet our 2050 obligations. This includes tackling the huge challenge of decarbonising heat by legislating so that no new homes are built with gas boilers after 2025.

“The review urges the government to get behind the work of the Green Jobs Delivery Group so that the right mixture of green jobs and skills are available in the workforce, which IEMA views as critical to delivering the low carbon transition.

“The government must rapidly consider the outcomes of the review and recalibrate the UK’s strategy for achieving net zero so that industry can get on with the job of delivery.”

Below is a selection of reaction relating to the sector-specific recommendations listed in the Review.

FINANCE

UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association’s (UKSIF) chief executive James Alexander:

“We very much welcome the high ambition outlined in the Skidmore Review and the clear, persuasive economic case it makes for net-zero delivery in the UK. We would urge the Government to meaningfully engage with its recommendations for the real economy and financial services, and to more clearly recognise the enormous short and long-term economic benefits of the UK’s transition.

“Many investors will be particularly pleased to see the Review emphasise the importance of greater policy clarity, with the unclear policy landscape continuing to be a major barrier for our members in driving lending and investment towards decarbonising the economy.

“It is positive too that the Review recognises the necessity for good disclosures across the economy, including the need to implement the International Sustainability Standard Board’s standards as well as the UK’s Green Taxonomy as soon as possible. We will continue to make this case to government, which will be critical to facilitate investors’ efforts to address sustainability risks and opportunities.”

Green Finance Institute CEO Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas:

“Today’s comprehensive Skidmore review shows that the UK’s transition to net-zero is achievable but must be supported by a coherent and overarching financing strategy. This will require a smarter approach to risk-sharing with the private sector, including the use of guarantees and innovative financial mechanisms, to accelerate the deployment of private capital into net zero across every corner of the UK.”

Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) chief executive Stephanie Pfeifer:

“[This] review rightly highlights the significant opportunities presented by the transition to a green economy – from job creation to economic growth, the benefits afforded by net-zero to the UK are multiple, significant and clear. Yet to seize the opportunities presented by net-zero will require a significant increase in private investment across the UK economy, particularly in infrastructure and renewable energy technologies.

“To meet the ever-increasing requirement for more capital, investors need the UK government to not only maintain – and where possible – exceed its existing net zero ambition, but to set a clear and stable policy vision underpinned by near-term actions and milestones.”

ShareAction’s head of UK policy Fergus Moffatt:

“While the report recognizes the immense economic opportunity net-zero presents to the UK, his recommendations simply don’t match this ambition.

“This review should have included measures that not only incentivise green investment, but that disincentivise investments in fossil fuels – such as the introduction of one-for-one capital requirements. Recommending Sustainable Disclosure Requirements and mandatory Transition Plans across the whole economy is a proposal that will only work if made mandatory.

“Fortunately, the Government has an immediate opportunity to make these recommendations a reality by incorporating them into the Financial Services and Markets Bill currently being debated in parliament.”

ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association’s (CCSA) chief executive Ruth Herbert:

“The Review recognises the crucial role of CCUS and hydrogen in delivering net-zero, including recommendations to accelerate the cluster programme and confirm the long-term funding envelope for deployment.  The forthcoming Spring Statement is a perfect opportunity to do this and start driving investment and economic growth across the UK’s industrial regions.

“The Net Zero Review included site visits to North Wales and the Liverpool bay area and I am therefore delighted to see that the Review has highlighted the opportunities that can be created by CCUS; to deliver regional growth and local jobs so these communities can benefit from the net zero transition.

“The recent delays to the UK’s cluster programme mean that the Government must now take forward the actions in the Review as swiftly as possible to ensure the UK can deliver its ambition of four operational CCUS clusters by 2030.”

Carbon Clean’s chief executive Aniruddha Sharma:

“Mission Zero is absolutely right to emphasise the UK’s comparative advantage over other advanced economies in several key areas – including carbon capture and storage. This presents a unique opportunity for the UK to capitalise on export opportunities from the global transition.

“In order to remain competitive, the UK must quickly match the long-term funding certainty that the Inflation Reduction Act has brought in the US and we applaud the clear path outlined in this report. We hope and expect the UK government will now take this path and grasp this historic opportunity.”

Solar Energy UK’s chief executive Chris Hewett:

“It’s no surprise that solar energy, one of the cheapest and greenest sources of power, has been backed so strongly in Chris Skidmore’s review of how to reach net zero while maximising economic growth.

“We very much hope that Whitehall will embrace his calls to establish a joint taskforce with the solar industry to work on a roadmap for reaching 70 GW of solar by 2035 – about four and a half times what we have now.

“The number one priority of this group will have to be unblocking access to the grid – which is pushing back the completion of many large projects well into the next decade. In time, it should lead to a sector deal, like those agreed for aerospace, construction, offshore wind power and other industries.”

RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail:

“Chris Skidmore’s Review emphasises the importance of creating a tax and regulatory environment that encourages investment into the UK at a time when we are struggling to compete for investment against countries with attractive incentives for renewable energy like the USA. That’s why it’s vital that the Government considers the signals Treasury is sending to clean energy investors following the introduction of the Electricity Generators Levy, which kicked in at the start of this year and is now putting investment at risk. A stable policy environment is vital at a time renewable developers and their supply chain are under massive financial pressures just like any other sector, to ensure we maximise investment in renewables. Given this, the Government needs to look at what more could be done to increase investor confidence.

“If the Government is looking to increase the economic benefits of the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions, the Review sets out some really clear easy wins. Setting targets for new onshore wind and solar capacity would certainly increase investor confidence and ensure we can decarbonise our electricity system by 2035.

“The review rightly underlines the vital importance of using a wide range of renewables to strengthen Britain’s energy security, including innovative technologies like floating wind, tidal stream and green hydrogen. It also recognises that deployment of these technologies hinges on timely investment in port infrastructure and reform of our clean power auction system to grow the UK’s renewable energy supply chain.”

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) international energy analyst Gareth Redmond King:

“Not one out of 32 studies conducted on home heating concluded that hydrogen would be a viable low-carbon replacement for gas. The review is clear that government needs to re-evaluate the economics, particularly the role of blue hydrogen which is made using gas, the price of which is set to remain high.

BUILDINGS

UKGBC’s chief executive Julie Hirigoyen:

“The Skidmore Review rightly recognises the enormous economic prize of jobs, growth, and innovation on offer if the UK takes proactive action to seize the opportunities of net-zero. Our members and partners across the industry are resoundingly consistent and committed to working at speed and scale to deliver a decarbonised, net-zero built environment and reaping the economic and growth opportunities that this brings.

“We welcome the range of recommendations in the Review to support the decarbonisation of our homes, buildings, communities and cities. Many of our members would even support going further in several areas, including introducing a net-zero test for the planning system, requiring solar power on new homes, and an end date for new fossil fuel boilers in homes by 2028. We urge the Government to decisively take forward the recommendations so that the UK can accelerate progress toward net zero and embrace this era of opportunity at a time when our economy needs it most acutely.”

UK Business Council for Sustainable Development chairman Jason Longhurst:

“In property and construction alone, this report notes that we will need an extra 350,000 skilled workers by 2028 to deliver the improvements we need to make to existing buildings to reduce energy demand in both commercial and residential development.

“To achieve this we need to unlock public and private sectors to move forward in partnership with clear goals and a shared strategy. It is now time to commit to creating a new sustainable development growth sector on the global stage led by the innovation already driving this agenda in the UK.”

Grundfos’s country director for the UK Glynn Williams:  

“How refreshing to see a review of the UK’s progress towards net-zero target that focuses on energy efficiency. Chris Skidmore MP is right to recommend that all non-domestic buildings achieve an EPC rating of B or above by 2025, with residential properties following suit by 2030.

“To get to better energy efficiency, buildings need more than the best insulation; they must address energy inefficiency at source.”

LCP Delta’s head of heat Steven Ashurst:

“Chris Skidmore’s thorough review rightly highlights that one of the biggest decarbonisation challenges facing us is how we heat our homes. Too much policy uncertainty and a lack of action means that the Government is currently far from reaching its target of having 600,000 heat pumps installed every year from 2028; last year we only reached 10% of that target.

“By putting in place clear signals, such as legislating for a ban on high carbon emitting boilers, this will enable a market to develop for low carbon heating solutions that is both competitive and provides quality to customers.”

TRANSPORT

The ECIU’s transport analyst Colin Walker:

“EVs can save households almost £800 a year, and remain almost three times cheaper to fuel than their petrol equivalents. A ZEV mandate could speed the supply of electric cars in the UK in turn boosting the second-hand market enabling these savings to be shared by more people. It would also provide a strong signal to further private investment in the charging network and EV manufacturing and secure more high-paying jobs.”


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