A little-known story behind how the work of the Net Zero All-Party Parliamentary Group paved the way for the way for Boris Johnson’s ten-point climate plan.
Two weeks ago, much attention was paid to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. However, relatively little attention was given to the Net Zero All-Party Parliamentary Group (NZ APPG) which released its own Ten Point Action Plan the previous week. Much of the APPG’s Plan was incorporated into the Government’s plan.
The NZ APPG was established in 2019 to provide MPs and Peers with a cross-party forum for accelerating the UK’s efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The NZ APPG’s Plan was the result of an extensive, five-month Decarbonisation Series, which included contributions from industry, academia, and civil society, and helped pave the way for the Government’s announcement.
A draft version was presented to the Government in July, when the NZ APPG’s Chair, Labour MP Alex Sobel, wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Responses from Rishi Sunak MP and Alok Sharma MP show the Government was listening. In October, the Government began talking about announcing its own 10-point plan for a 'green industrial revolution' later in the year.
A drive for job creation
Viewing the two plans side-by-side, the influence of the NZ APPG’s work is clear. Both call for using decarbonisation to drive job creation, ending the sale of new petrol and diesel only cars by 2030, and developing an ambitious hydrogen strategy. Both also call for greening the UK’s building stock through overhauling building standards and incentives and focusing on low-emissions building heating, and scaling-up investment in carbon capture and storage technologies.
While many of the NZ APPG’s recommendations were adopted, its membership will be concerned the Government did not go far enough in a number of areas. On spending, the £12 billion in government investment (much of which was announced earlier in the year) was a far cry from the green recovery packages announced by comparable countries like France and Germany (€38 billion and €40 billion respectively). The Government pledged to spend £9.2 billion on energy efficiency alone in its Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2019, yet only £4.05 billion has been committed to date. Whether the full £4.05 billion is spent will also largely depend on market uptake, and there are already signs it will fall short.
Carbon capture and storage
On carbon capture and storage, the NZ APPG called for the establishment of a ‘Carbon Take Back Obligation’ as a way to guarantee long-term investment in the technology. Under the proposal, fossil fuel extractors, importers, and airlines would be required to capture or remove from the atmosphere an increasing percentage of the CO2 generated by the products and services they sell, raising to 100% by 2050; when net-zero is set to be achieved. The Government’s plan does talk about releasing further detail on a “revenue mechanism to bring through private sector investment” into the technology, so the NZ APPG members will be hoping the Carbon Take Back Obligation, or something similar, sees the light of day.
The NZ APPG also called on the Government to align its corporate finance programmes with net zero, including by making access to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility conditional upon the adoption of net zero business plans. The CCFF is designed to support large firms to weather Covid-19, so could be used as an effective tool for drawing big business into the decarbonisation agenda.
The NZ APPG’s work demonstrates the constructive role detailed, cross-party, diverse sector analysis can play in shaping government policy. Considering the way climate action has been politicised in other western democracies, like the United States, Canada, and Australia, one cannot underestimate the impact cross-party groups, like the APPG, have in giving governments’ confidence to accelerate climate action. In addition to opening up political headroom, the NZ APPG has pushed the UK’s climate policy frontier, giving the government valuable food for thought on the next phase of decarbonisation effort.