Businesses in the West welcome the government’s long awaited Net Zero Strategy

by Nina Skubala, Head of Climate Change Strategy at Business West.

Yesterday the Government issued its Net Zero Strategy, 12 days in the run up to COP26, which is seen to unlock multiple economic and environmental benefits. With the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, there has been a great deal of anticipation for the publication of its own Net Zero Strategy.

The strategy is welcomed as it sets out what lies ahead for businesses and the key actions required in the decades to come to deliver on a Net Zero economy.

The wide-ranging strategy which includes new policy plans, spending commitments amounting to £26bn are expected to unlock £90bn of private sector investments through to 2030, secure 440,000 jobs and ensure that the UK is “on track” to deliver its Net Zero target.

Policy plans include support for new nuclear, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, carbon capture, increased funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, heat pump installations, sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and natural carbon sinks among many measures.

Whilst the strategy is welcomed it does  have some missed opportunities Energy efficiency remains  underfunded. The detail around reviving the nuclear pipeline, tackling industrial emissions, and building a hydrogen industry is light. There is little in the strategy to address the worsening net zero skills shortage. How to engage the public and behaviour change is missing. And there is little to say about planning reforms, local government, or overarching governance reforms. The various funding pledges look great on paper (£26bn  in total) but are not the post-covid Rooseveltian stimulus package that many had hoped for. Taking the boiler upgrade scheme as an example, the amount offered, £5k for air source heat pumps and £6k for ground source heat pumpsp is significantly less generous than the current Renewable Heat Incentive, although it does have the advantage of being paid upfront. Crucially, it is not clear how much carbon saving each measure is expected to deliver.

But there is much to be optimistic about. The concept of a net zero emission economy is the defining political, economic and environmental trend. The pace at which this has been adopted following the Paris Summit in 2015 is staggering with two thirds of the global economy including the US, China and EU all having net zero targets in place. The UK was be the first major world economy to set a legally binding netzero emissions target, and now with this strategy, it now has laid out the key actions required over the coming decades.

For the West there are opportunities ahead. Could this strategy bring forward the cycle infrastructure employers are calling for in the West of England through Cycling Works? Could this provide the support needed for businesses to make the swich to EV? Will this further the region’s fusion ambitions? Could this see vast areas in the South West as identified by afforestation app Vana turned over for tree planting?

What is very clear is that there is much to do. In 2019, CSE estimated that in 2019 there were fewer than 200 heatpumps in Bristol alone and to reach a Net Zero by 2050, by 2030 27,000 would need be installed in this city alone.