Government response on fossil fuel phase out leaves door open for ‘Green Day’ update
23 March 2023
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today published the Government’s response to its report on ‘Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies’. The Government has rejected many of EAC’s recommendations aimed at speeding up the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply.
- Letter from the Chair to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
- Inquiry: Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies
- Read the response (HTML)
- Read the response (PDF) [316KB]
- Environmental Audit Committee
EAC launched the inquiry following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent choking of international gas supplies, a move which sent gas and electricity bills for ordinary consumers spiralling. To ensure that the UK followed a timely path to meeting its net zero commitment, while securing sufficient energy supplies for homes and businesses, EAC set out a number of policy recommendations for Ministers. These ranged from measures to increase energy efficiency in buildings, to ways to facilitate low carbon energy installations in homes. The Committee touched on measures to improve low emission transport, and made clear recommendations on the phasing out of fossil fuels.
In the Government response, Ministers have not engaged in a meaningful way with many of the Committee’s recommendations, and have not acknowledged the slow progress achieved through policy incentives on energy efficiency in the past 10 years. The Government instead chose to outline existing policy initiatives in a number of areas.
- Some of the recommendations not taken up by Ministers include:
- Setting an end date for new licensing of oil and gas;
- Bringing forward a ban on flaring in the North Sea (also recommended by Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review);
- Allocating a proportion of money raised from the Energy Profits Levy to tackle energy efficiency.;
- Setting a specific ambition for onshore wind – even though the Government has done this for offshore wind, solar and nuclear in the British Energy Security Strategy targets. No detail is offered as to the future role of onshore wind;
- Introducing tax breaks for renewables investment as well as oil and gas.
The Committee now looks forward to more significant Government announcements expected to be made on the so-called ‘Green Day’ later in March. When he appeared before the Committee on 15th March, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has set high expectations by explaining that these announcements will be a “big bang moment”, including publication of a refreshed Net Zero Strategy and the Government’s response to the report of Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review being published.
The Committee therefore anticipates that the Government will be in a position to respond more constructively to its recommendations in the light of these expected imminent policy announcements, and the Chairman has today written to the Secretary of State to request that the Government response be updated in the light of the ‘Green Day’ package.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:
“Over the course of several months our Committee heard from expert witnesses on how the UK could phase out fossil fuels while ensuring that households could continue to power and heat their homes. Our report took forward many of these proposals, supported by evidence that the measures were practicable and achievable.
“It is therefore disappointing to find not only that in its response to our report the Government failed to accept a single recommendation, but also that it did not engage at all with many of the proposals we had made. Instead, we received a response which reiterated existing policy initiatives. These initiatives in themselves are clearly insufficient to accelerate emissions reductions at a pace necessary to put us firmly on the path to net zero.
“The Government has another chance, later this month, to demonstrate its ambition by setting out achievable targets and coherent action plans. I look forward to the Government’s ‘Green Day’ later in March when the Net Zero Strategy refresh and the Government response to the Skidmore Review will be published. This comes at a pertinent time following the IPCC’s recent warnings that the world is likely to breach the Paris goals of 1.5°C additional warming in the 2030s: we must rapidly identify ways to reduce consumption of fossil fuels yet further.
“I expect that in the light of these significant announcements Ministers will wish to update the Government’s response to our recent report.”