The Skidmore Net Zero Review

In January 2022, ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth took Boris Johnson’s government to court over two of its inadequate climate strategies. The judicial review challenged the government’s Net Zero Strategy on the basis that it did not spell out how the strategy would be delivered or specify how the cuts in emissions were to be achieved in each sector. Instead, the lawyers said, it relied on speculative technologies such as zero-carbon aviation fuels and extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air and burying it (see The Guardian report here).

The judicial review also challenged the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy on the grounds that it didn’t consider the impacts of its policies on vulnerable groups,as part of ensuring a fair energy transition where climate action aligns with social responsibility.

The court case was successful and in September 2022, the then PM Liz Truss appointed Tory MP and former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore to lead the Net Zero Review with the deadline of the end of 2022 to publish his findings.

Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review

On 13 January 2023, the Skidmore’s Net Zero Review was published. The report states that we are not currently on track to achieve net zero by 2050 and it details 129 recommendations to reach the goal. Skidmore also stresses the historic economic opportunity offered by net zero for the 21st century.

The main recommendations to the government in the Review are as follows:

1. Using infrastructure to unlock net zero

  • accelerating the implementation of the British Energy Security Strategy to update the mandate of Ofgem, creating the Future System Operator and accelerating the connection of cheaper renewables such as solar and onshore wind
  • developing a cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy by 2025 supporting the building and adaptation of infrastructure for electricity, hydrogen, other liquid and gaseous fuels and CO2 networks that support the green economy
  • reforming our approach to planning, so that where locally supported, more solar and onshore wind can be developed more easily, helping communities reap the benefits of cheaper low-carbon electricity

2. Creating sustainable governance structures for net zero

  • developing an over-arching government financing strategy by the end of 2023
  • establishing an Office for Net Zero Delivery, responsible for placing net zero delivery at the heart of government thinking

3. Backing businesses to go green

  • reviewing incentives for investment in decarbonisation, including via the tax system and capital allowances, and protecting British industries from environmental undercutting by progressing plans on carbon leakage measures and providing more detail on the UK’s new Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
  • building skills needed for the transition by driving forward the Green Jobs Taskforce recommendations and launching a ‘Help to Grow Green’ campaign, offering information and support to SMEs to plan and invest in the transition

4. Catalysing local action

  • reforming the planning system at local and national level to place net zero at its heart
  • back at least one Trailblazer Net Zero City, local authority and community, with the aim for these places to reach net zero by 2030

5. Increasing transparency and engaging people

  • expanding the government’s public reporting on net zero
  • ramping up public information through a new engagement plan, a new carbon calculator on the carbon cost of choices, and a standardised approach to ecolabelling on products
  • developing a Net Zero Charter mark, acknowledging ‘best in class’ among firms for their work in reaching net zero

6. Delivering cleaner, cheaper, greener homes

  • legislating for the Future Homes Standard, meaning no new homes will be built with a gas boiler from 2025, and for all homes sold to be EPC C by 2033
  • adopting a 10-year mission to make heat pumps a widespread technology in the UK and legislate for the end of new and replacement gas boilers by 2033 at the latest
  • reforming EPC ratings to create a clearer, more accessible Net Zero Performance Certificate (NZPC) for households

7. Capitalising on international leadership

  • conducting a strategic review on the UK’s international climate leadership and introduce environmental and climate protections in future free trade agreements, removing trade barriers to environmental goods and services

8. Setting ourselves up for 2050 and beyond

  • ramping up investment in research and development (R&D), with a new net zero R&D and technologies roadmap up to 2050, supporting up to 3 10-year demonstrator projects

Timeline of the recommendations

A timeline breakdown of the recommendations can be found on Half of the actions are timetabled for 2023, including:

  • set up an overarching government finance strategy
  • implement effective future carbon leakage mitigations
  • flesh out the Emissions Trading Scheme
  • create a net-zero technology roadmap
  • review and reform tax systems for net-zero
  • implement a carbon capture and storage roadmap
  • set up task force to deliver new solar and wind capacity
  • deliver the aims of the Green Jobs Taskforce
  • kickstart 10 year programme for hydrogen
  • publish a landuse framework
  • launch a public net-zero engagement campaign
  • set up Great British Nuclear

This all sounds great in theory: but what will actually happen?

This BBC Newscast podcast (from 4min 50 sec) interviews Chris Stark, Chief Exec of the Climate Change Committee, and he is confident that the government will have to respond this review as it has to put out a new policy by March 2023 to comply with the court judgement.

See here for The Guardian’s analysis of the report which they say reveals “that the Conservatives have failed on nearly every aspect of net zero policy. Though it is cloaked in polite language, and couched in terms of constructive suggestions rather than hard-hitting new policy demands, there is little in its 320 pages to show the government is on track on any of the wide range of policies needed, on areas from transport to housing, farming to energy generation.”


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