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Bring on the Ides of March: Setting the foundations for Net Zero

Published 08 Mar 2023

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March is a big month for net zero watchers. UK Government has until the end of the month to update its Net Zero Strategy, spelling out how its policies will achieve climate targets.

This makes it a big moment for the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), whose verdict on the efficacy of the approach must be given “considerable weight”, according to the High Court.

Luckily, for the artist formerly known as BEIS, it has had someone to help with its homework. Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review was published at the start of the year as a roadmap for reaching net zero. The Government’s response is expected to be its de facto update to the Net Zero Strategy. The Review has helpfully set out 129 recommendations and emphasises the role of private enterprise in delivering net zero. This ranges from the creation of a stable business environment to plan and invest, through to creating a Net Zero Charter Mark to acknowledge “best in class” firms. 

Tackling a layered problem

The great challenge of this work has been its overlapping nature. Sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and aviation have proven particularly difficult to decarbonise – but a number of large-scale initiatives will apply to all of them.

Sources at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero have stressed that they are well aware of the links between its long-awaited response to the Developing the UK ETS consultation and the long-promised consultation on mitigating carbon leakage. We should expect both of them to come hot on the heels of the Skidmore response, providing clarity for the next phase of the UK ETS for a range of high-emitting sectors. This will also fire the starting pistol on the UK’s answer to the upcoming Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism that the EU will introduce from October of this year.

The action isn’t just policy-based either: white smoke on funding support for projects shortlisted under Phase 2 of the Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) Cluster programme is also expected later this month. Exact timings are unconfirmed – but with limited goodies likely from the Chancellor this year, the Budget on 15 March is a good time for Government to remind industry that it remains alert to the need to invest in the technologies of the future.

Sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and aviation have proven particularly difficult to decarbonise
For the UK’s net zero future, it won’t just be Government pouring the cement.

Grant Shapps and his nascent Energy Security and Net Zero Department have a busy few weeks coming up then. And we should hope to see this continue over the summer months. There are long-term pieces of work underway that will fundamentally reshape the way we treat energy and emissions in the UK.

The Review of Energy Market Arrangements (REMA) will map out the transition to a predominantly renewable-powered energy system throughout the year. The long-awaited Energy Bill, trundling its way through the House of Lords “as Parliamentary time allows”, will set up the Future System Operator and enable the business models necessary for the rollout of CCUS and the hydrogen economy.

Licence to operate in a net zero world

So what does this mean for business? Just as the High Court encouraged the Government to explain its delivery plans, now is the ideal time for businesses to set out their activities in more detail. Whilst concerns over “greenwashing” are widespread, clear strategies for playing a part in the journey to net zero now represent a crucial part of the licence to operate in every sector. Besides the benefits to brand reputation, a strong “policy comms” campaign can unlock wider conversations with stakeholders, including policymakers.

2023 will set the foundations for the UK’s net zero future. This time, it won’t just be Government pouring the cement.

If your business would like to discuss how strategic communications can highlight your net zero strategy in the right places, get in touch with Hanover’s Energy, Trade and Industry Team at

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