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Ensuring cross-party accountability on net-zero

4 min read

The Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee scrutinises the government’s approach to securing the United Kingdom's energy supply and cutting emissions. Committee chair, Angus MacNeil MP, outlines upcoming priorities ahead of COP28.

As we look ahead to COP28 in Dubai, the pronouncements from the Prime Minister outlining  the government’s new approach to net-zero have thrown climate policy into the spotlight and sharpened the focus of the debate over the best way for the country to meet its legal obligations and emissions targets. 

For many years – all the way back to the 1990 Climate Summit in Rio – and under many governments, the United Kingdom, along with others, have been at the fore of good practice in this area, working through the United Nations to mitigate the human impact on our climate. Rishi Sunak suddenly looking soft and indecisive about policies that people and industries have long been gearing up for threatens to undo the hard work and puts the long-standing consensus on the actions needed at risk.

The Energy Security and Net Zero Committee will be playing the crucial role we have in Parliament as a cross-party voice by pressing the government for clarity on the impact of the policy changes on the public and the analysis that has been done of the costs and benefits of delaying net-zero policies.

But while everyone should agree that it is vital that we do not row back on the clear and real gains that have been made, we must go further. There, of course, remains much more to do to meet our emission reduction targets, so the committee is examining the longer-term issues around ensuring the UK’s infrastructure and energy mix is fit for the future. This will play a key part in achieving the green goals while having the added benefit of addressing the energy security of the UK. 

Our inquiry on keeping the power on is taking a deep look at how the energy mix of the UK needs to change to deliver enough capacity while hitting net-zero targets. We already have existing energy supplies, such as nuclear and bioenergy, that are providing a baseload to replace gas but there are other technologies, from geothermal through to space solar, that have the potential to play a key role if the right infrastructure for innovation and development is in place.

We must also not forget storage technology and how that can be developed, as well as considering whether there is benefit in differing regional and local approaches. The aim must be to come up with the energy generation mix that will get us to net-zero in the quickest and most affordable way. 

“Our inquiry on keeping the power on is taking a deep look at how the energy mix of the UK needs to change to deliver enough capacity while hitting net-zero targets”

In addition to looking at our energy mix, for the UK to become truly green, steps must be taken at both individual and household levels. Examining energy efficiency and low-carbon home technologies will be at the forefront of our heating our homes inquiry. 

There will be lessons to be learnt from the design and delivery of past energy efficiency schemes, while there is also a debate to be had over whether heat pumps, or low carbon hydrogen, provide the most viable solution to decarbonising our homes. 

As many people again face a difficult winter with energy bills still high, we must be mindful of the cost of decarbonising our heating and how the public can be supported to make it affordable. 

There will be many challenges on the road to net-zero, with the UK’s 2030 emission reduction target looming large. Our inquiries will scrutinise the government’s policies to change how we generate and use our energy and to deliver a greener future for everyone.

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