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Government reiterates to EAC its commitment to meeting net zero, but concerns remain over energy efficiency

26 October 2023

The Environmental Audit Committee has today published a response from the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Rt Hon Claire Coutinho MP, in response to the Chair’s letter to the Prime Minister following the announcements around changes to net zero policy made by the Prime Minister on 20th September.

In her response, the Secretary of State sets out that the announcements made by the Prime Minister were in response to concerns about the cost to families of current net zero implementation, and the need to maintain public support for net zero policies. She states that the Government remains on track to meet net zero, and gave some additional detail of the Government’s positions on the policy areas concerned, including on the phasing out petrol and diesel cars and vans, and on energy efficiency.

The Committee welcomes the Minister’s thorough response. Members note that the Government does not intend to provide to Parliament an updated Carbon Budget Delivery Plan which will allow ready examination of the claim that the UK remains on track to meet the majority of its carbon budget obligations following the changes in policy. The Committee looks forward to discussing these issues with Ministers and others as its examination of the Government’s progress towards net zero targets continues.

In its 2021 report on Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes, the Committee stressed that more must be done in the area to ensure the UK remains on track to meet net zero targets. The Committee reiterates the concern, as expressed in the Chair’s letter to the Prime Minister, that actions such as dissolving the Energy Efficiency Taskforce send a worrying message about the overall prioritisation of the energy efficiency agenda. The Committee notes the Climate Change Committee’s response to the Prime Minister’s announcement, in which it stated:

“On decarbonising buildings, the announced changes will make it more difficult to meet the government’s sectoral pathway. While a 2035 phase-out date for fossil boilers is potentially compatible with Net Zero, the exemption of 20% of households from the phase-out will have an impact on emissions all the way out to 2050 – making Net Zero considerably harder to achieve.”.

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

“This extensive response by the Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary to the Committee’s letter seeks to answer the Committee’s questions to the Prime Minister  posed in my letter of 29th September.  I welcome the Secretary of State’s acknowledgment that scrutiny of decarbonisation pathways could be improved: the Committee looks forward to working constructively with Ministers to improving Parliamentary scrutiny processes in this regard. We welcome the Government’s stated ongoing commitment to meeting carbon budget and net zero targets.

“It is nevertheless disappointing that many of the Committee’s specific questions have been left unanswered. A detailed response showing the impact on future emissions would have assisted our scrutiny of the revised timeframes for the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles and of fossil fuel boilers, and the potential impact of these changes on the emissions reductions required to meet net zero. We hope that further detail will be provided in the forthcoming Government response to the Climate Change Committee’s 2023 Progress Report on emissions reductions.

“Energy efficiency remains a significant concern of the Committee. I hope the Government’s recent increase in the level of grants being offered to replace fossil fuel boilers generate the desired take-up. I trust that the increase in the size of grants available will be reflected in an increased overall budget for the scheme, as well as accelerating take-up by households. I look forward to raising these issues with the Secretary of State in this important policy area in coming weeks and months.”

Further information

Image: UK Parliament