THE UK GOVERNMENT lacks a plan for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, despite setting the target in law almost two years ago, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee says in a new report published on 5 March 2021.

The report says that departments across Government are not yet sufficiently considering the impact on net zero when taking forward projects and programmes. The Treasury has changed the guidance on policy appraisal to ensure departments place greater emphasis on the environmental impacts, but also hasn’t set out how this will work in practice.

Government is not yet ensuring its activities to reduce UK emissions are not simply transferring emissions overseas, which would undermine global efforts to tackle climate change.

As much as 62 per cent of the future reduction in emissions will rely on individual choices and behaviours, from day to day lifestyle choices to one-off purchases such as replacing boilers that use fossil fuels or buying an electric vehicle.

The Committee says that the Government has not yet engaged with the public on the substantial, individual behaviour as well as on the structural economic changes that achieving net zero will require. In 2020, a group of Parliamentary select committees hosted Climate Assembly UK in an attempt to begin that conversation with the public.

The Committee says local authorities will also play a major role in the move to net zero, and Government will need to engage more with local authorities on their role in reaching it, including ensuring they have the necessary resources.

Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Government has set itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net zero economy by 2050 – but there is little sign that it understands how to get there and almost two years later it still has no plan.

“Our response to climate change must be as joined up and integrated as the ecosystems we are trying to protect. We must see a clear path plotted, with interim goals set and reached – it will not do to dump our emissions on poorer countries to hit UK targets. Our new international trade deals, the levelling up agenda – all must fit in the plan to reach net zero.

“COP26 is a few months away; the eyes of the world, its scientists and policymakers are on the UK – big promises full of fine words won’t stand up.”

Responding to the report, Cllr David Renard, Environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “We are very pleased that the Committee has backed our call for a national fiscal and policy framework for addressing the climate emergency. This framework should outline responsibilities for the Government nationally as well as locally, with a commitment to working with local public sector bodies.

“We’re glad to see that our own recent climate change survey has been a valuable piece of work in the Committee’s decision, and it’s positive to see an emphasis on the role of local authorities in reaching net zero across the country. Net zero can only be achieved if decarbonisation happens in every place, community and household. Councils must have the necessary resources and be suitably supported by government.”

* Read the report here.

* Source: Public Accounts Committee