Environment

MPs say the government has shown no 'real intention' of hitting its net zero target

The government has "no clear plan" for funding its net zero target, with costs to consumers unclear, a committee of MPs has warned.

Wind farm on a coast.

The lack of funding plan shows "ambition" rather than "real intention" to achieve the target, the committee chair said. Image: Pixabay

The government has “no clear plan” for funding the transition to net zero and no estimate of costs for families, MPs have warned. 

In a report published on March 2, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the lack of clarity over costs and tracking spending amounts to an “aspiration” rather than a “real intention” from the government on achieving net zero by 2050. 

Committee chair Meg Hillier MP said the government had “unveiled a plan without answers to the key questions of how it will fund the transition to net zero”.

The government has set a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with an ambitious strategy published in October 2021, ahead of the COP26 climate conference.

Achieving net zero will require rapid decarbonisation of many sectors, including energy, transport, housing and agriculture.

This will require funding for a number of different interventions, including insulating housing, generating electricity and restoring the natural environment.

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The PAC has warned, however, that the government has not laid out how all these measures will be paid for, or by whom, with no plan to report on spending in pursuit of net zero.

“To publish policy without commensurate funding merely amounts to an aspiration not a real intention by [the] government,” the report warned. 

MPs said clarity on costs to ordinary people is crucial at a time when “many people are worries about their energy bills”.

The committee made several recommendations to the government, including calling on the Treasury to set out how progress on implementing net zero policies will be reported. 

The PAC report also warned the government has failed to engage consumers, investors and local governments when it comes to behaviour changes and policies for net zero – and needs to do so if it wants to hit the 2050 target.

Hillier added: “[The] government is relying heavily on rapidly changing consumer behaviours and technological innovations to drive down the costs of green options, but it is not clear how it will support and encourage consumers to purchase greener products or incentivise businesses and drive change.”

Responding to the report, Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK said: “The key thing this report skewers isn’t net zero, which remains essential, but the government’s failure to chart a clear way forward with consistent, appropriate policies and investment which will minimise costs and protect the most vulnerable in society.”

Ben Margolis, interim director of The Climate Coalition added: “Achieving net zero and ensuring a healthy, safer climate and environment for future generations is the greatest challenge the government and wider population face.

“We need an all of government approach with the prime minister leading and the chancellor funding the transformation. However, we’re yet to see that in action and stop-start measures and policies are hindering progress and leaving the door open for doubters.”

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