The environment secretary George Eustice is under pressure from Downing Street after a leaked memo revealed that his department still had no plan to meet its carbon emissions targets. All ministers have been told by Boris Johnson to develop workable strategies to cut emissions in their sectors as part of his roadmap to net zero by 2050. However, an internal memo revealed that, despite being responsible for a tenth of the total UK emissions, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had yet to agree policies that can deliver this.
Times 5th May 2021 read more »
All the targets are set, for the next five years at least. Now is the small case of actually cutting carbon, a task currently overshadowed by an argument over the ‘true cost of net zero’. The impending Treasury Net Zero Review is a chance to tackle this head on, dispelling some of the greatest myths about a ‘crippling’ cost of decarbonising, and setting a precedent that can lead to all of government swinging in behind net zero. Her Majesty’s Treasury operates in the same way to an oil tanker. Years of ingrained thinking means things are slow to turn around. Once pointing in the right direction, though, there’s no stopping it. Initial signs that the review heralds a change of tune are positive. The interim net zero review, released late 2020, stressed that the effect of taking action on economic growth would be small, and that the cost of inaction dwarfs that associated with ditching fossil fuels. On total costs, Treasury itself says that macro-level estimates are highly uncertain, extremely speculative and based on a large number of assumptions. It also says that addressing market failures and underpinning a consistent policy environment can ensure the transition takes place as cheaply as possible. Any models run by HMT to estimate this ‘total cost’ will be subject to its own disclaimers on accuracy. Economy-wide models have long underestimated the pace of technological change, with recent research from UCL highlighting that the benefits of cumulative innovation, as well as those from investing early, are absent from the spreadsheets that spit out big and scary ‘total cost’ numbers.
ECIU 27th April 2021 read more »