Net zero: the industry responds

Nick Molho, executive director, Aldersgate Group: “This is a crucial step forward and a landmark achievement for the Prime Minister and all the ministers and MPs who have supported an increase in the UK’s climate ambition. The message from business is clear: the UK will strengthen the competitiveness of its economy by being the first major economy to legislate an ambitious net zero target – as long as this is supported by a comprehensive policy package.

We now look to the Prime Minister’s successor to introduce a robust policy package that puts the UK on a credible path to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 and supports business investment and competitiveness. …The best way to address competitiveness concerns will be for the government to introduce measures such as product standards to protect British industry from high carbon competition and use its extensive diplomatic network to encourage other emitters to adopt similar targets and grow low carbon trade. Indeed, this announcement puts the UK in a very strong position to host COP26, which will be a crucial opportunity to raise international ambition.”

Matt Rooney, engineering policy adviser, Institution of Mechanical Engineers: “Achieving net zero will require a transformation of our energy system and the deployment of a broad range of new technologies in every sector of our economy.

The UK has made great progress in reducing emissions, in particular from the power sector, but going further will necessitate a major upgrade of our energy infrastructure.

But this should also be seen as an opportunity. In being the first country to legally commit becoming a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy, we can become more innovative and reap the benefits of leading on the development of the novel technologies of tomorrow.

…There is little doubt that in the same way the Apollo missions to the moon led to a spike in the number of engineers and scientists, a nationwide, government endorsed net zero greenhouse gas programme will lead to the recruitment of more (and more diverse) entrants to the sector.

The UK has already shown what can be achieved through a concerted effort in industries like offshore wind.“


Nina Skorupska, chief executive, Renewable Energy Association: “This decision demonstrates that government is listening to both the scientific evidence regarding climate change and to the tens of thousands of school children and members of the public who have taken to the streets in recent months.

“In their net-zero recommendations, the Committee on Climate Change rightly identified that the variety and sophistication of renewable technologies needed to reach net-zero already exist. What is needed now is clear and consistent policy that will allow for a route to market for renewable and clean technologies that will attract investors.


Martin Baxter, chief policy advisor, IEMA: “Tackling the urgency of climate change and meeting the 2050 target will require comprehensive policies and all parts of the economy and society will need to play their part in rapidly reducing UK emissions. We also believe that the forthcoming Office for Environmental Protection, being established through the new Environment Act, must be given powers to enforce climate change laws to give build trust and provide assurance to the public and businesses that government policies and plans to them are consistent with the long-term net-zero target.”


Maria Connolly, partner, TLT: “The development of clean energy technology and the maturation of the clean energy and electric vehicle (EV) markets have been key to decarbonising the UK economy and will play an even more important role in the years to come. The adoption of these technologies means that they have become very dependable and cost-effective, so it’s not a case of whether the UK economy transitions to clean energy but when and how quickly.

“By putting in place incentives and regulations that provide certainties to the market, the government can further accelerate the development of clean energy schemes and EV charging infrastructure. A few additional measures would provide the right signals to investors and help further drive the financing of such projects, bringing the net-zero emissions target closer to realisation.”


Professor Phil Longhurst, head of the Centre for Climate and Environmental Protection, Cranfield University: “This is an important and achievable target but what we now need is a plan as to how meet this, otherwise there is a danger that the target will be missed. Which technologies are going to be invested in, which behaviours are we going to try and change and what innovations are we going to back?

“What is striking about this announcement is the attitude from business to it. In the past, we might have seen business baulk at such ambitions but instead, there is a general acceptance that this change is both essential and inevitable. At Cranfield, we are working with a number of energy producers who are transitioning to a more sustainable business model by embracing technologies such as Carbon Capture Storage.”


Tim Rotheray, director, Association for Decentralised Energy:  ”Energy customers from heavy industry through to every home must be at the centre of this revolution. Those users are key to meeting over half of the emissions cuts needed. To make this happen, a new energy policy is now needed; one that enables energy users to be rewarded for cutting carbon in heat, power and transport, with energy policy making at the centre of all Government departments.
Ambitious policies to secure large scale investment in heat networks, ensuring all customers can earn money for helping to keep the power grid stable and large scale investment in energy efficiency in homes, businesses and the public sector are essential to making today’s announcement happen.”


Philip New, chief executive, Energy Systems Catapult: “Achieving a net zero emissions target by 2050 would require households to engage more profoundly in the low carbon transition around heat, transport, aviation and diet. This compares to current (80%) ambitions – where targets could conceivably be met with hybrid petrol cars, some natural gas boilers still in the mix, current levels of meat and dairy consumption, and a near doubling of air travel demand.

“With the average gas boiler lasting 15 years, most households will have two opportunities to switch to low carbon between now and 2050. With a tighter target, more homes will have to opt for low carbon solutions sooner rather than later. The full decarbonisation of heat requires natural gas to be replaced by hydrogen, or else electric heat pumps and district heat networks.”


Keith Anderson, chief executive, ScottishPower: “The UK now has a very clear commitment to reduce carbon emissions to net zero. In only 30 years’ time we need a society that runs on a carbon neutral basis. To deliver this race to zero we will double the amount of electricity we use, therefore we need to quadruple the amount of renewable energy we make. That’s going to require bold innovation alongside market and regulatory frameworks that encourage significant and sustained investment.”


Matthew Wright, UK MD, Ørsted:“As the first major economy to legislate for a net zero target, the UK shows a bold commitment to a cleaner and greener future. As the global leader in offshore wind, with 3.7GW already in operation in the UK, we are proud to be leading the country’s green transformation. Let’s create a world that runs entirely on green energy.”


Emma Pinchbeck, deputy chief executive, RenewableUK: “Over the last decade, the UK has shown that political leadership on climate change is a real opportunity to have a better, not just, greener economy than one powered by fossil fuels. The Government’s clear plans for renewables haveturned off coal and delivered a world-class industry which is already cheaper and more efficient than old fossil fuel power stations.

“We need to make the best use of every technology in our toolbox, from onshore wind to wave and tidal power to energy efficiency to help fix dangerous climate change. We might be afraid of the impacts of climate change, but the UK’s world-class renewables industry, including our global lead in offshore wind, shows that we should not be afraid of investing in a green economy: the returns to the UK of this leadership on net zero will be huge”.


Chris Hewett, chief executive, STA: “…long term targets are meaningless without action. In the case of solar and energy storage the government must move quickly to remove barriers that have needlessly slowed progress….A 100% renewable energy system, including powering heat and transport, is entirely possible but only with the integration of energy storage which represents a notable industrial opportunity for the UK. The sector is yet another example of the tremendous potential economic opportunities in clean energy if the Government gets pathways to commercialisation and mass market deployment right.


John Meagher, director of business development, Nova Innovation:  “This commitment needs to be backed with investment in solutions like tidal energy, which will have a huge role in helping the government achieve its aims. …The UK leads the world in tidal energy, but it is on the cusp of throwing it away. We call on the government to grasp the opportunity on offer and help us to bring about the change needed to provide home-grown energy, generated from a predictable, renewable source.”