Chris Skidmore MP’s independent review into Net Zero arrives at an opportune political moment. There have been rumblings that the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is less enthusiastic than his predecessor-but-one on the environment, however, the forthcoming Budget in March could be the right time to remind us of the economic opportunity that our journey to Net Zero can become – if is harnessed correctly.
Despite initial enthusiasm from the UK Government of the time in signing into law the pledge to meet zero emissions by 2050, several political distractions since then have meant less time than expected for making an economic case for action on climate. However, it is clear that the systematic move to a more sustainable approach will bring opportunity for many businesses, including – of course – EIC members.
Last year’s COP27 summit ended the year on a relatively downbeat note for our environmental ambitions. The general take away message was that more needed to be done. The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has also recently shared a similarly challenging review of progress to date. Taking forward Skidmore’s recommendations would demonstrate a renewed commitment and be an important indicator of how seriously the new government takes the issue.
We are calling for the development of a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan which recognises the importance of skills and training to support delivery of our green ambitions. Stephen Marcos Jones
To date we have focused on the vital first moves such as our energy supply, the phasing out of combustion engines on vehicles and gas boilers in homes Whilst bold and positive, they are in many respects the “low hanging fruit.” Now comes the more difficult and detailed work of realising the concept of Net Zero across all aspects of our lives, including the built environment. This Review goes some way to outlining these next steps for all of us to take.
Readers of New Civil Engineer will no doubt welcome the specific focus on using infrastructure to unlock Net Zero and will join EIC in warmly welcoming the ambition to create a cross-sectoral Infrastructure Strategy by 2025. With expertise across many areas of the built environment – transport, place, nature – our industry’s support on this will be vital to its success.
The Review is also timely given the recent publication of ACE and EIC's Political Manifesto for 2023, and we were reassured to see some of our own asks mirrored in the findings, notably around skills where our asks are in complete alignment.
We are calling for the development of a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan which recognises the importance of skills and training to support delivery of our green ambitions. The Review recommends similar moves and asks for the publication of an action plan which would include a “comprehensive roadmap of when, where, and in which sectors there will be skills needs specific to net zero.”
We also welcomed the move to support innovation in this space. The proposal for an R&D roadmap by the Autumn is fundamental to EIC members and others, working to develop new Net Zero solutions. Coupled with a reliable and robust Construction and Infrastructure Pipeline, it will give businesses working in our sector greater opportunities to plan for future resource requirements.
Our Manifesto also reflects the reality of working in challenging economic circumstances and calls for strong leadership on climate action and the promotion of the climate agenda. This has also been recognised in the Review which calls for the establishment of an Office for Net Zero Delivery. Of course, we need more detail but additional scrutiny – to ensure we are all moving in concert – is something which we would certainly support in principle.
So, plenty for our industry to welcome and support. Reviews of this type offer an independent perspective that government cannot always implement. The real takeaway for me is that – in the current climate – our move to Net Zero is simply an economic opportunity which cannot be missed.
Let us hope Government are listening.
Stephen Marcos Jones
CEO of the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC)
This article first appeared in New Civil Engineer