Public institutions must take the lead for net zero to succeed

net zero

A successful transition to a net zero UK economy by 2050 requires leadership from our public institutions, a new report urges.

A new report from the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) questions whether the government, and the wider public sector, are currently demonstrating this leadership clearly enough.

In particular, are they doing enough to build confidence that net zero is deliverable? The report highlights that confidence in the transition is a critical ingredient for success, and that building this confidence has many elements.

It notes that to take action towards a net zero world, people need to be sure that the change is necessary, and they need to be sure that it is practically achievable – that the solutions exist, the timeframe is not too short, it won’t cost too much, and the disruptions to the way we live will be at the very least acceptable, and preferably likeable too. 

Local authorities have a key role to play in helping build this common vision for the future, by helping everyone understand what the details of a net zero future will look like. They are in the best place to co-create this shared view with their communities, although the study notes that they will need more resources to do this effectively. 

Critically, the public sector must drive participation by demanding that the organisations that it works with (such as suppliers, delivery partners and recipients of financial support) are involved in net zero action and are working towards carbon emission reduction plans. This requirement can and should be delivered with accompanying support for organisations, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that may otherwise struggle to meet the new requirements. 

There is an urgent need for the sector to share with others the steps it has taken, the lessons it has learned and the benefits it has secured from action to reduce emissions.

All public spending must require suppliers to be transitioning effectively to net zero, at a pace that is consistent with our 2050 target and the carbon budgets between now and then.

A mechanism is needed to ensure that every budget, spending review and King’s Speech are accompanied by a carbon emissions assessment. 

“There is an opportunity here for the public sector to drive change,” said Joanne Wade, author of the report and chief strategic advisor at the ADE. “A successful transition to net zero is one that involves everyone, and the public sector has many roles to play, both to show that everyone can be involved and also to show that everyone must play their part.”

Energy efficiency in buildings reduces demand for the heating and power of the indoor space through a combination of measures, such as insulation, draught proofing, and LED lighting. The cheapest, safest and most secure form of energy is the energy we do not use. That is why energy efficiency must be allowed to compete on equal terms with new supply capacity. Energy efficiency means the construction of fewer new generating plants and reduced network infrastructure investment combined with greater resilience and lower carbon emissions. 

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