Net Zero Review: Chris Skidmore to Lead Government Review of 2050 Emissions Target

The government has launched an independent review into the delivery of net zero climate commitments, with a focus on ensuring the UK’s fight against climate change maximises economic growth and ensures energy security and affordability.

Commissioned by Secretary of State for Business and Energy Jacob Rees-Mogg, the review will be lead by former Minister for Energy Chris Skidmore MP. As Chair of the Net Zero Review, he will be tasked with examining:

  • what the most pro-business, pro-growth and economically efficient path to reaching net zero is
  • how to maximise the economic opportunities that the target presents as well as increase innovation, investment, exports and jobs
  • what the economic costs and benefits are associated with new and emerging policies and technologies

Speaking on the upcoming work of the Net Zero Review, Chris Skidmore said:

“This review seeks to ‘double down’ on how we can ensure that our energy transition happens at the same time as maximising the economic opportunity for businesses and households across the country, providing huge opportunities for innovation, investment, exports and jobs. I want to ensure that net zero isn’t just viewed as the right thing to do for our environment- but becomes an essential driver of economic growth.

I’m kicking off a 3-month review today to find the best ways of making this happen – speaking to as many people in as many sectors and regions as possible, to ensure the review generates fresh policy ideas that can ensure we deliver a ‘big bang’ moment for net zero.”

Commenting on the Review, Business and Energy Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg said:

“The government remains committed to reaching our net zero emissions targets, but with Russia weaponizing energy across Europe we must make sure we do so in a way that increases energy security and does not place undue burdens on businesses or consumers.”

net zero review commissioned by Jacob Rees-MOgg
Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Jacob Rees-Mogg

Net Zero: Where does the government fall?

While Rees-Mogg insisted in the government’s press release that the government remains committed to net zero, there are concerns particularly around his previous comments. As the cabinet member with a responsibility for meeting the UK’s legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it is certainly worrying that he has previously described the goal as “a huge regulatory cost”.

As recently as last Tuesday, representatives from 128 businesses and business networks wrote to the Prime Minister calling on her to prioritise net zero and nature restoration to build a resilient UK economy. This also comes as there are reports that the Government could scrap plans for new subsidy schemes for farmers intended to accelerate nature regeneration.

Final Thought

The UK economy has grown by 76% since 1990, and in that time emissions have also fallen by 44%, so the effort to balance the two goals is both important and feasible. However, sceptics of the review, given Jacob Rees-Mogg’s previous comments around net-zero, may fear that this will be an excuse for the government to water down it’s legally binding commitments to the goal and previous legislation such as the 2021 Environment Act.

But it is also worth remembering that Chris Skidmore has long been a strong environmental voice in the Conservative party. As Chair of the Environmental all-party parliamentary group, he was part of a small group of Conservative MPs, including Alok Sharma (Chair of COP26), who encouraged leadership candidates to sign up to the net zero pledge.

However, despite what very well may be Chris Skidmore’s best intentions, he has only been given until the end of the year to deliver this ambitious review. For such a huge question – of ensuring that the UK meets it’s net zero targets, whilst also prioritising growth, this is a very short amount of time.

It is very hard to see what he could deliver in the way of concrete, long-term policy plans that are well thought out, evidence based, and feasible in this short period of time.

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