The outlook for net zero

Now that the UK’s strategy to reach net-zero by 2050 is here, questions remain as to whether the plan for decarbonisation provides enough clarity for businesses to act and realise targets, or whether lack of urgency leaves parts of the economy inadequately placed to achieve net-zero.

The strategy outlines how spending will be deployed to prioritise emission reductions from the built environment, heavy industry, transport, and power whilst delivering job growth.

Since the introduction of the Ten Point Plan in 2020, more than £26 billion in capital investment earmarked for net-zero has been introduced.

Along with private investment of around £90 billion by 2030, the strategy maintains that by 2025 this will support up to 190,000, and by 2030, 440,000 jobs.

All welcome news, but does it provide sufficient confidence and ambition for the necessary investment required by green groups and businesses?

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee:
“This is a substantial step forward that…provides much more clarity about what lies ahead for businesses and individuals and the key actions required in the coming decades to deliver a Net Zero nation…The critical next step is turning words into deeds. We have begun to assess the strategy in more detail and the extent to which the policies proposed in this strategy deliver their ambition.”

David Wright, chief engineer, National Grid:
“Now, the focus needs to be on implementation and investment in infrastructure and technologies. We’re at a critical stage in the journey where net-zero is possible with the technologies and opportunities we have today and, in order to deliver on this, we have to accelerate and ramp up efforts to deploy long-term solutions at scale.”

Matthew Farrow, director of policy, Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE):
“The next few years really are make or break…and the hard work is only just beginning. The challenge is to convert to the broad outlines we now have for technology choices and rollouts into actual physical deployment across millions of households and thousands of communities. Furthermore, this must be done in a joined-up way. The engineering and consultancy sector will be crucial in delivering this.”

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group:
“Whilst the ambition to develop four low carbon industrial clusters by 2030 is positive, upcoming consultations will need to result in clear business models to support the scaling up of carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and electrification in industry. Greater attention should also be paid to connecting dispersed industrial sites – such as cement, glass and ceramics – with the low carbon infrastructure that will be deployed in industrial clusters.”

Mats Persson, Partner in EY Parthenon:
“Declining fossil-fuel production is out of sync with the speed at which low carbon energy alternatives are coming online, risking significant supply constraints. While some uncertainty around delivery and technologies, particularly around homes and heavy industry, is inevitable, there needs to be a clearer sense of the right sequencing to anchor the Strategy in sound supply- and demand-side economics.”

Dr Nina Skorupska chief executive, the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA):
“We need to see clear routes to market; a holistic circular economy approach; support for a range of cleantech and renewable technologies; best practice standards…and we need more flexibility and investment in the energy system and grid networks.”

Clearly, whilst broadly positive, the mixed response suggests that a cogent strategy enabling businesses to take responsibility for their net-zero transition is required.

RB Plant | Multi-Disciplinary Engineering Consultancy | Team