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Seven steps government must take to keep its net zero target alive

How government can ensure momentum on climate change is maintained in 2022 and build on 2021’s ambitious net zero strategy.

Silhouette of factory with chimneys emitting smoke, sunset
Silhouette of factory with chimneys emitting smoke

The government’s response to the energy price crisis right will be critical to preserving political and public support for net zero policies, warns a new paper by the Institute for Government.

Published today, Net Zero: Agenda 2022 sets out seven steps the government needs to take – to ensure momentum on climate change is maintained in 2022 and to build on 2021’s ambitious net zero strategy.

The first test the government faces is to show it can help households weather the immediate energy cost crisis without losing track of its net zero commitment. And it also needs to show how it can reconcile its net zero target with its other objectives of providing secure, affordable energy in the longer term. Failure to do this risks fueling discontent on its backbenches and undermining the cross-party political consensus on the need for action for climate change that has existed for 30 years.

To maintain the momentum built in the run up to the Glasgow climate conference now COP26 is done, the IfG paper says the government needs to:

  • Manage the immediate cost-of-living crisis
  • Fill in the gaps in its net zero strategy, including publishing the outstanding strategy for agriculture and land use
  • Develop a net zero test to apply to spending and other policies to ensure net zero is properly embedded into government decision making
  • Sort out governance on net zero by transforming the COP26 team into a standing net zero unit in the Cabinet Office
  • Engage honestly with the public about the costs and benefits of its net zero strategy
  • Publish an adaptation strategy covering all departments and sectors and review responsibilities to ensure adaptation has enough clout within government
  • Use the remaining months of the UK’s COP presidency to make good the commitments made in Glasgow, and address uncertainty over its aid budget

In addition, the report recommends that relevant departmental select committees should ensure that they regularly scrutinise individual departments’ progress against their net zero commitments.

Jill Rutter, IfG senior fellow and report author said:

“In the run up to COP26 the prime minister said last year that net zero was one of his top priorities. Now that the Glasgow conference is ‘done’ the government needs to show that it can maintain that momentum and put in place the detailed changes needed to translate its strategy into action. But first it needs to convince the public that it can manage the immediate energy bills crisis, without sacrificing its long-term net zero objective”

Notes for editors
  1. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  2. For more information, please contact / 0785 031 3791.

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