Mission Zero – an encouraging report on Net Zero

‘Mission Zero’ is the title of a major new review and independent assessment conducted by former energy minister Chris Skidmore MP for the UK government.

The review is split into two parts:

  • Part 1 explains the opportunity and benefits of net zero to individuals and the economy. It places domestic action in an international context and emphasises that the UK must go further and faster to realise the economic benefits of net zero.
  • Part 2 sets out how to achieve this opportunity, across six pillars. It makes recommendations to catalyse action in individual sectors of the economy, and to enhance the role of local authorities, communities, and individuals to deliver net zero.

Overall, Mission Zero makes 129 recommendations to help the country achieve its targets for net zero emissions by 2050, based upon evidence from more than 1,800 written submissions, 50 evidence roundtable discussions, and speaking to over a thousand participants in nationwide engagement sessions.

The recommendations cover a wide range of areas, all ‘pro-growth’ and ‘pro-business’, including incentivising businesses, improving infrastructure, and delivering more energy efficient homes, as well as initiatives to maximise economic investment, opportunities and jobs. The review has been widely welcomed by many within the construction and housebuilding industry.

Here are just a few of the big takeaways from the review:

Delivering cleaner, cheaper, greener homes 

The review makes clear that reducing household energy consumption, and making energy cleaner and cheaper, are key to achieving net zero.

Building energy efficient homes and adapting their infrastructure to support green energy sources can significantly achieve the net zero emissions targets. Mission Zero recommends legislating the Future Homes Standard to ensure that no new homes are built with a gas boiler from 2025, and talks about accelerating the phasing out of replacement gas boilers by 2033. The government also plans to adopt a 10-year mission to make heat pumps a widespread technology in the UK.

The review also recommends that the government should develop a public procurement plan for low-carbon construction and the use of low-carbon materials (like timber) by the end of 2023. Housebuilders and housing associations can expect to hear a lot more about this during the months ahead.

Backing businesses to go green

Achieving net zero will require all businesses to play a significant role. The report recommends reviewing incentives for investment in decarbonisation, such as tax incentives, and launching a Help to Grow Green campaign offering information and advice to businesses, as well as proposing a ‘Net Zero Charter Mark’ to recognise the best in class among firms in terms of their role in the transition to net zero.

The government has a guide for businesses to find funding to help their business become greener. Incentives can encourage firms to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the future.

Creating sustainable governance structures for net zero 

The review found a lack of long-term planning, and uncertainty over the length of funding commitments, is slowing down the delivery of net zero.

Chris Skidmore recommended that the government should prioritise and take a long-term approach to net zero projects by setting up a new Office for Net Zero Delivery (which probably explains the recent decision to create a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, DESNZ). This government team can ensure best practices for key delivery projects, increase transparency on the government’s efforts, and enhance accountability for delivery.

Catalysing action through local authorities and communities

The report shows how the planning system is often undermining net zero and the economic opportunities that come with it at a local level. The Mission Zero report says the government should prioritise any local authority or community that wants to go further and faster on net zero by supporting at least one or more Trailblazer Net Zero City.

To read the full set of recommendations, download the Mission Zero report here.

The overarching message of the report is that net zero is THE growth opportunity of the 21st century and a long-term, stable investment plan is needed to capitalise on that opportunity.  Delay is a significant risk, and this is all far too important to get wrong.

Many government actions are required to ensure the UK achieves its net zero targets in the best way possible for the economy and the general public.

It is now in the hands of the government to see if they will accept the recommendations and whether they will be included in the updated Net Zero Strategy due in March.