Ten policy changes the UK needs in order to meet 2050 net-zero goal

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Utility E.ON has issued a new report exploring the current pace at which the UK is moving towards its 2050 net-zero goal and some recommendations to help the government urgently accelerate the decarbonisation process.

The report, The Carbon Countdown to 2030, states that current policies by the UK government are lagging in regard to enabling the required actions and investments for the 2050 net-zero target to be met.

And as such, E.ON is recommending the government to clarify policies, introduce stricter and more urgent regulation and to ensure the increased participation of consumers and businesses.

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The report states that urgent action needs to be taken this decade to avoid risk of missing the 2050 target and provides some ten key actions that the UK needs to implement:

  1. Develop and provide a more detailed roadmap to 2050: This includes ensuring the government’s ten-point plan delivers concrete policies capable of driving the transition to net-zero. For instance, these policies should include the introduction of fixed dates for all houses to meet minimum energy performance standards or for when cities should ban the use of fossil fuel vehicles.
  2. Introduce a sell-by date for gas boilers: As seen with petrol and diesel cars, an end to fossil fuels gives consumers and heating manufacturers/installers clarity to help them prepare for a low carbon future. In addition, with the supposed to increase the installation of heat pumps per annum from 30,000 units today to 600,000 units by 2028 and 1 million pumps by 2030, there is a need to improve business and skills development.
  3. Building standards should mean all new properties are net-zero carbon: Tougher regulations are needed to mandate that all new properties – residential and commercial – must be built to zero-carbon standards.
  4. Simplify schemes that support most in-need households: Making sure householders understand the help to which they are entitled will lead to a better take up of the support on offer. Clamping down on rogue traders and low-quality suppliers also means homeowners have confidence in investing in a better, more comfortable home.
  5. Prompt householders to take action now: A high-profile communications campaign can explain to householders the need to change and the help available to them. That change should be aspirational, a positive choice towards a cleaner future, instead of victimising carbon-heavy households.
  6. Put a greater focus on small businesses: There needs to be clarity on an energy efficiency scheme incentivising early action from small businesses and recognising their specific needs.
  7. Give consumers confidence in their renovation journey: ‘Building renovation passports’ give homeowners a roadmap to decarbonisation over the next 10-15 years. Specify what actions they will need to take, and when, based on personalised information.
  8. Polluters should pay – but in a fair way: Government subsidies for low carbon electricity and vulnerable customers are weighted on to the electricity side of the bill. Putting a carbon price on fossil fuel heating, and taking policy costs off electricity bills, means cleaner electric heating becomes cheaper and customers don’t pay twice.
  9. Decarbonise – but protect –UK industry: Create a more sustainable carbon leakage protection framework for the UK which levels the international playing field and prompts bigger businesses to make changes, such as through a carbon border tax adjustment and redeploying existing incentives by increasing financial support for the decarbonisation of UK industry. Ensure carbon reports and assessments (such as ESOS) lead to mandated improvements in energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.
  10. Accelerate the rollout of district heating: District heating can provide up to 20% of the country’s heating3 needs but industry needs clarity on exactly who is responsible for development and which parts of the country should be prioritised. Local zoning plans for the largest conurbations should outline which areas are most appropriate for district heating or for other forms of cleaner energy.

Michael Lewis, E.ON UK Chief Executive, said: “The next decade will be critical if we are to meet 2050 targets. The decisions we take in the years between now and 2030 will determine whether we are able to gain sufficient momentum to achieve success.

“Government has shown significant commitment and the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan gives a sense of the scale of change needed but the pace needs to step up if we are to realise this ambition and secure the economic benefits for the UK. We must not forget this is a marathon, a 30-year ambition. We don’t have to do it all immediately, but we do have to get moving now.”

The report has been launched following the UK government admitting its failure in accelerating the energy transition as evidenced by a statement made by Lord Deben, the chairman of the Climate Change Committee at the House of Commons after he was asked whether the government was doing enough to achieve 2050 net-zero goals: “We are clearly not. In almost every sector we are failing . . . we have simply not done the radical things that need to be done.”

Find out more about the report.