The former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore, who was responsible for signing the UK’s Net Zero Commitment into law, has published his independent review of Net Zero, including 129 recommendations to help create a greener economy.

These recommendations map out a pro-growth pathway to delivering the UK’s 2050 climate target and aim to pressure the government to meet these in an affordable and pro-enterprise way.

While the UK has made great progress in decarbonising, with Skidmore pointing to offshore wind and electric vehicles as examples of this, his review identifies that more needs to be done to realise the economic benefits and opportunities offered by Net Zero as there is a ‘net present danger of not acting fast enough’.

The UK now risks missing out on its first-mover advantage. Acting quickly and spending money will be essential, as investing in Net Zero now will be cheaper than delaying and will also increase the economic and climate benefits, the review finds.

Skidmore is clear that businesses are being held back and not being able to progress as fast as they wish, in part due to a lack of policy clarity and barriers that are currently in place. The review aims to reverse this through its 129 recommendations to the government, and 25 suggestions termed ‘25 by 2025’ that could be realistically delivered by 2025 — alongside other wider recommendations.

These 25 ‘no regrets and no excuses policy recommendations’ include many suggestions that will have some cross-party support, including strengthening home insulation standards, implementing a clear CCUS roadmap, and increasing nuclear baseload requirements. Yet, some of these recommendations will require legislation and with an existing busy parliamentary calendar, cost of living pressures, strikes and a government with one eye on a general election, the challenge now for businesses in this space is to make themselves heard in the next two years.

As the review identifies, businesses overwhelmingly see the opportunities that Net Zero presents and there is a greater role that they can be supported to play. Government statistics show there are already around 400,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains across the UK, with an estimated turnover of over £40 billion. Both the British Energy Security Strategy and Net Zero Strategy aim to leverage an additional and unprecedented £100 billion of private investment while supporting an additional 480,000 British jobs by 2030 – jobs and investment the UK desperately needs to achieve growth.

Reaction from the renewable energy industry and NGOs have tentatively welcomed the review, echoing the growth and pro-investment opportunities that the UK is well-placed to benefit from.

Labour’s Shadow Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, agreed with Skidmore that delay was a concern, following the publication of the review he said ‘13 years of delay, dither and a refusal to go all-in on a green energy sprint under the Conservatives, is depriving our country of the economic opportunities climate action offers’. He went on to accuse the Prime Minister of being a ‘fossil fuel prime minister in a renewable age’.

However, the aims of the review have not been universally welcomed with some Conservative influencers continuing to question the cost of Net Zero and also questioning the independence of the review – since Skidmore was the Energy and Clean Growth Minister who pushed the Net Zero commitment through the House of Commons in 2019.

In September last year, Mr Skidmore was commissioned to lead his review of the government’s approach to delivering its Net Zero target during the short-lived Truss era. Under Sunak’s leadership, the approval of the Cumbria coal mine despite climate concerns has led some to question Downing Street’s commitment and desire to push forward on certain green issues. However, the current Energy Minister Graham Stuart said at a launch event for the review on Monday that his Government is ‘absolutely committed to meeting our target’ and described Net Zero as ‘the opportunity of our century’. Time will tell.

As policymakers study the 129 recommendations of the Net Zero Review, the overriding message from Chris Skidmore is that the UK Government needs to act quickly on the opportunities for Net Zero as any delay will only hurt the economy, ‘If the UK is unwilling to lead, the only other option is to follow’, he said at the review’s launch event.

Looking to the next general election and beyond, Net Zero needs to continue to be at the forefront of government policy no matter which political party is in power. MPs would be ill-advised to slow down the transition to Net Zero as polling of UK voters consistently shows that the proportion of people concerned about climate change is high, with over three-quarters (77 per cent) saying we must do ‘everything necessary, urgently as a response’ (UNDC 2021).

For businesses in this space hoping to engage with the Government, MPs and the opposition on any of the issues in the review, the time is now. At H+K Strategies, our deep sectoral expertise helps our clients better navigate policy and drive the most effective messages and strategies to influence the right policymakers.

The Government is expected to publish a response to Mr Skidmore’s review by March.