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Climate change - How can the Government get to ‘net zero’?

24 June 2021

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has launched an inquiry on net zero governance, which will examine the leadership and co-ordination which will be needed by government to deliver on the UK’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

The Committee’s inquiry will examine the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s leadership role in delivering net zero, how effectively the Department is driving co-ordinated action across Whitehall and the role that devolved administrations and local and regional authorities can play. The inquiry will also examine the Government’s success in engaging with public sector bodies, regulators, businesses and citizens on net zero and the role and oversight of net zero performance metrics in Government.

The BEIS Committee will be working closely with the Environmental Audit Committee on this inquiry and inviting guests from other select committees engaged in work on net zero. The BEIS Committee also welcomes evidence for this inquiry on the effectiveness of current parliamentary scrutiny arrangements for climate change. Full terms of reference are included further below.

The Committee’s call for evidence is issued ahead of a series of public evidence hearings which are likely to begin in the Autumn with stakeholders including energy and business organisations, think-tanks, the Climate Change Committee, and Government Ministers.

Net zero governance – inquiry terms of reference

Send us your views

The Committee welcomes evidence submissions on the terms of reference outlined below. The closing date for submissions is Friday 27 August 2021.

1. What are the key requirements for a governance structure that can deliver cross-Government climate action at the pace, scale and over the duration required to meet the carbon budgets and the 2050 net zero target?

       a. Are the Government’s existing net zero governance structures effective in this role, both in terms of coordination across Whitehall, and coordination with the devolved administrations and local and regional authorities?

       b. What alternative governance structures could be established to coordinate and deliver cross-Government action on climate change more effectively?

       c. What metrics should the Government use to measure their progress towards net zero?’.

2. What governance structures would enable HM Treasury to give greater priority to the net zero target and the carbon budgets in its financial and economic decisions?

       a. How could HMT better ensure that spending decisions contribute to achieving net zero in the long term?

3. What signals and support does business need from the Government in order to deliver cross-economy decarbonisation in line with the carbon budgets and the net zero target? What delivery function should Government provide itself and are relevant regulatory bodies mandated and resourced effectively to deliver on Government priorities?

       a. How do policy and regulatory signals and support vary between Government Departments (and how have they varied over time)? How is this affecting business activity on climate change?

       b. Should Ofgem play a greater role in delivering on net zero and, if so, what changes are required to deliver this?

4. The BEIS Committee will be working with the Environmental Audit Committee on this inquiry, and inviting guests from other select committees. We are also interested in comments on the effectiveness of current parliamentary scrutiny arrangements for climate change and proposals to improve this.

Chair's comment

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:

“Getting to net-zero will require a significant increase in the scale and pace of change across every part of the UK, especially in the decade ahead. We need the Government to quickly move from announcing targets to setting out delivery plans, to ensure a fair and just transition, and to bring about genuine public engagement and consent for the measures necessary to achieve our climate targets.

The Climate Change Committee’s Progress Report to Parliament [today] highlights that the Government has been too slow to back up its high ambitions on climate change with the policies, financing and delivery bodies that are need to actually deliver on our decarbonisation targets.

Ahead of COP26, there should be an even greater focus on getting our governance and delivery arrangements right to deliver our net-zero target. Leaders from around the world will no doubt ask what we are doing in the UK to deliver on our own targets, especially as we’re asking every other country to do the same.”

In summer 2020 the BEIS Committee conducted the ‘My BEIS inquiry’, inviting members of the public to ‘pitch’ ideas for inquiries. The Committee selected four pitches to take forwards, including one by Professor Paul Ekins, UCL, on ‘Institutional arrangements to meet net zero’. Professor Ekins argued that current institutional arrangements are insufficient to achieve the 2050 net zero target, and that an inquiry could explore alternative arrangements that might be more effective.

Further information

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