As my review concludes, Net Zero isn’t just an environmental measure, but now a crucial economic opportunity: it is also the growth opportunity of the twenty-first century, and we are well placed to capitalise on export opportunities from the global transition. We enjoy a comparative advantage over other advanced economies in offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and green finance. Not every country has a financial centre like London, windy coastlines, and significant oil and gas expertise. McKinsey estimates a global market opportunity of £1 trillion for British businesses by 2030.
But competition for nascent industrial growth is intense. It’s not just the blue collar jobs we need to protect and win, it’s white collar jobs too, in consulting and green tech. The Government estimates the transition can support 480,000 jobs in 2030, but to unleash a boom in these green collar jobs, the Government needs to support British industry in some key areas – and get out of the way in others.
On car manufacturing, for example, failing to accelerate the electric transition with an ambitious Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate next year would send the wrong signal. Leading think tanks such as Policy Exchange and Green Alliance have been calling for this policy for some time, as well as the Commons Transport Select Committee. Similar regulations have been, or are being, introduced around the world in California, Canada and China. We can’t afford to be asleep at the wheel.
The United States’ Inflation Reduction Act is already turning the heads of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers. The Act provides up to $7,500 tax credits for commercial EVs and generous grants for EV manufacturing, resulting in a disadvantage for European EVs in the world market. The EU is looking to respond with its own version.
We need to be alive to the competition and provide a clear and attractive investment environment, which supports jobs in key sectors. The recent collapse of Britishvolt, a planned gigafactory in Northumberland, should act as a wakeup call for government.
We often talk about deregulation in the Conservative Party, but smart regulations can also attract growth. Building standards, for example, could be used to make rooftop solar the norm for all new buildings, starting with public and other suitable buildings. In France and parts of Germany, solar panels have been made mandatory for new car parks. Why don’t we do the same here?
In other areas, we can be less interventionist. Simply getting out of the way can drive billions of private capital into domestic onshore wind and solar development. Planning is also preventing people from installing heat pumps in the most convenient locations, or preventing productive parts of the economy from expanding lab space for R&D.
The Office for Environmental Protection recently criticised the government for a ‘culture of delay’ across Whitehall – and there is a real danger that it translates into missed opportunity on net zero.
Ahead of the next election, the Labour Party are going big on green, with their green prosperity plan. It’s smart politics, as the environment consistently polls well with the public, but we shouldn’t accept second place. Commentators focus their attention on the Red or Blue walls, but the Conservatives shouldn’t turn their backs on the green bridge of voters in both camps , especially when we have a strong record on climate and the environment.
Since I became an MP in 2010, we’ve more than quadrupled offshore wind capacity, reducing the amount of expensive and polluting gas we have needed during this energy crisis. And in the same timeframe, we have gone from just 14 per cent of homes being rated EPC C or above to more than 46 per cent now, insulating households from greater price rises. We have a proud environmental record which we should champion.
Though I won’t be an MP after the next election, I want to see our continued success on these issues, and I will dedicate my time to helping the UK deliver on its net zero goal. My review is full of recommendations from businesses, local authorities and other organisations who are working on net zero delivery every day. It was the biggest engagement on net zero to date and it’s my hope that the government will heed many of the recommendations in Mission Zero, as the UK’s blueprint for green growth.