‘Everything rests on next week’: UK’s climate and economic prospects at stake on ‘Green Day’, Skidmore warns

'Everything rests on next week': UK's climate and economic prospects at stake on 'Green Day', Skidmore warns

EXCLUSIVE: Author of Net Zero Review warns investment will leave UK if Ministers deliver inadequate response to US and EU clean technology policy programmes

Green policy decisions set to be announced by the government next week are poised to have a defining impact on the future direction of the British economy and its ability to both decarbonise and remain internationally competitive, Chris Skidmore has warned.

Speaking exclusively to BusinessGreen, the Conservative MP and author of the government-commissioned Net Zero Review, warned there was a “wall of capital” that would be invested outside of the UK if the revamped green policy programme that is expected to be announced by Ministers next week falls short of investors’ hopes.

Skidmore admitted he was “quite nervous” about the government’s response to the 129 recommendations set out his ‘Mission Zero’ plan, which set out the major economic opportunities to be gained by capturing clean energy markets.

The government is expected to publish its official response to the Net Zero Review late next week, as part of a bumper day of climate announcements designed as a response to EU and US clean energy incentives that has reportedly been badged up internally as ‘Green Day‘. Ministers are also expected to formally update the UK’s Net Zero Strategy, after the High Court last year ruled that the current plan is inadequate and ordered the government to provide more detail on how it will deliver against legally-binding climate goals by the end of March.

“I am positive [about the government’s response], it is just there is so much riding on next week,” Skidmore said, urging Ministers to not be complacent in light of the UK’s relatively encouraging decarbonisation progress to date.

“The UK may have designed the Contracts for Difference scheme and we may be seen as leaders in offshore wind,” he said. “But when it comes to other forms of clean energy, other ways in which we can reduce emissions, investors will look to the government’s response next week and if we’re not able to demonstrate the opportunity for investing here, they’ll go elsewhere.”

He added that “the reality is now we are not only in a net zero race, but in a net zero market”.

Skidmore’s Review, which was commissioned last September by former Prime Minister Liz Truss in a bid to quell net zero sceptics in her party, was underway as the White House signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law, spurring the EU to start preparing its own package of clean energy incentives designed to boost clean energy manufacturing across the bloc.

The moves have triggered a wave of warnings from UK business groups that billions of pounds of investment in critical new infrastructure and supply chains will migrate to the US and EU unless the UK government delivers a compelling response. Experts fear that unless the UK can secure a share of global investment in new renewables, carbon capture, and electric vehicle supply chains it risks its long term competitiveness being severely dented as clean technologies come to dominate the global economy. 

Skidmore spoke to BusinessGreen on the sidelines of a parliamentary reception hosted by the UK100 network of local leaders last night, where he used his address to stress that “everything rests on the response by the government next week” and the climate policies put forward by parties at the next General Election. 

The decisions announced next week by Ministers will determine whether the UK can more than halve its emissions by 2030, he said, an interim target which is crucial if the UK’s longer-term net zero goal is to be achieved. 

Observers hope the government’s ‘Green Day’ announcements will include a raft of long-awaited policy decisions covering areas such as planning reforms, hydrogen projects, electric vehicle manufacturing, energy efficiency funding, land use, and carbon removals. BusinessGreen understands the policy package may also include new devolution deals for local government – akin to those announced in last week’s Budget for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands Authority – as well as new trade, green finance, and carbon capture announcements.

Skidmore, who plans to step down as an MP at the end of this Parliament, stressed the UK’s next General Election would also be a pivotal moment in the UK’s progress towards a net zero emission economy.

The next administration will be responsible for delivering on the UK’s 2030 climate target that has been submitted to the UN, driving the uptake of electric vehicle manufacturing through a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, and achieving the UK’s heat pump installation target, among myriad other environmental goals. “There is a lot riding on 2024 as well,” he said.

Skidmore vowed to work with all parties to ensure the next general election was a “net zero election” through his Mission Zero Coalition initiative. “I hope this government commit to as ambitious programme as possible,” he said. “But equally for everything they don’t commit to, I will be campaigning to make sure someone does.”

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