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Build Back Greener: the Government's net zero strategy

The Government has published its environmental strategy outlining bold plans to support the UK economy to transition to a green and sustainable future, just days before it hosts the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Jonathan Branton and Alexander Rose consider some of the main points within the Net Zero Strategy, including how it could help position the UK as a leading economy in the Green Industrial Revolution.

The Government has published its long awaited Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener which sets out how the UK will deliver upon its ambitious commitment to reach 'net zero' emissions by 2050.

At the forefront of the announcement is a significant package of public funding designed to accelerate the UK's 'Green Industrial Revolution' including:

  • an extra £350 million for the Automotive Transformation Fund which helps automotive manufacturers and their supply chains to adjust and develop the next generation of electric vehicles;
  • £620 million for targeted electric vehicle grants and related infrastructure, including on-street residential charging points as part of a wider plan to increase the number of zero emission cars and vans on UK roads through measures including a zero emission vehicle mandate;
  • £140 million Industrial and Hydrogen Revenue Support scheme to accelerate industrial carbon capture and hydrogen business models;
  • two new carbon capture clusters, Hynet Cluster and the East Coast Cluster, supported through the £1 billion Carbon Capture Usage and Storage Infrastructure Fund;
  • £1.5 billion of funding to support net zero innovation projects; and
  • £120 million for the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund.

Changes to the decision making process

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In addition to public funding, the Net Zero Strategy outlines measures designed to integrate environmental considerations into the Whitehall decision making process.  This includes:

  • requiring officials to incorporate five environmental principles in policy making;
  • ensuring decisions relating to government spending are informed by their impact on meeting net zero;
  • extending the £475m p.a. Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme delivering emissions reductions in schools, hospitals and other public buildings;
  • publishing an annual progress update so progress towards Net Zero can be measured; and
  • climate change training for civil servants.

The announcement has been accompanied by the Heat and Buildings strategy which details plans to decarbonise the UK's 30m homes and workplaces. This includes the announcement of £3.9 billion of new funding for decarbonising heat and buildings, including the 3-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme. The strategy anticipates the heat and buildings decarbonisation process will create c. 240,000 skilled green jobs by 2035, thereby supporting levelling up and the UK's economic recovery.

Observations on the Net Zero Strategy

As we have previously covered, the Government has put subsidies at the heart of its environmental plans, but the new Strategy goes further than anticipated to position the UK so it can both meet its 2050 target and be at the forefront of the Green Industrial Revolution.

The UK is making a serious statement to other governments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, utilising all the levers of Government to put the UK right at the front of Green Industrial Revolution.  The five environmental principles of policy making and the announcement that environmental considerations will be incorporated into the UK's £292bn procurement spend are sensible and pragmatic ideas.  What really catches the eye however is the programme of public spending and we wonder whether the Government will now also seek to amend the Subsidy Control Bill so it also complements the Net Zero agenda?

Darren Walsh, Head of UK Energy, said: "The Government's announcement of the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and the Heat and Buildings Strategy is further proof that the UK making a clear and concerted effort to drive innovation and technological advancement to meet our collective and legally binding commitment to attain a net zero carbon position by 2050. What is heartening is that these strategies will further energise and incentivise public bodies, private organisations and funders to take meaningful and positive steps in creating, developing and investing in low and zero carbon projects. We are already seeing a marked up take of such projects; whether in energy generation, carbon capture use and storage and the further advancement of low or no emissions vehicles and associated charging/refuelling infrastructure. Our clients are actively engaged in this space and seemingly will be given even greater reason to continue to do so."

Jonathan Branton is a partner and Head of Public Sector and Alexander Rose is a Director at DWF.

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