Former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore published his independent ‘Mission Zero’ Net Zero Review on 13 January. Does it reflect our recommendations provided in the call for evidence?
Sustainability West Midlands (SWM) were one of 1,800 responses to the call for evidence and engaged with our cross-sector members in collating our response, which was submitted at the end of October 2022. Along with the written evidence provided, the review involved 50 roundtable discussions and visits to devolved nations and regions. This extensive engagement is, in itself, impressive and resulted in seven conclusions and 129 recommendations which include 10 Priority Mission areas.
Most relevant to our role in the West Midlands is the recognition in the review that there must be more place-based, locally-led action on net zero. One of the key actions set out in the ‘25 for 2025’ recommendations is to fully back at least one Trailblazer Net Zero City, Local Authority and Community, with the aim for these places to reach net zero by 2030. It is right to see the West Midlands Combined Authority highlighted as a case study on regional net zero action. Let’s fight for the Trailblazer to be in the region.
The Review recognises that net zero is the economic opportunity of our time and we hope that the evidence set out in our response, highlighting the regional strengths in net zero technologies and the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) sector, went some way in supporting this case.
We highlighted survey feedback from our members who stated that uncertainty around investment, policy and regulation as areas holding them back from moving as quickly on decarbonisation, and we are pleased to see this recognised in the Review.
The Review sets out that supporting nature must be an essential part of the response and that a thriving natural environment is inextricably linked with protecting our climate and growing our economy. Effective land management was a key area of focus in our response and is of essential importance if we are to deliver on net zero. We are delighted to see this recognition in the Review and ‘Net Zero Nature’ as one of the ten priority missions.
In our response we set out how adaptation and resilience must go hand in hand with net zero; ensuring that climate adaptation measures are requirements of new homes, that home retrofit programmes integrate adaptation measures, and that design guidelines are produced for large capital investment projects, setting out how to use regionally specific climate projections and adaptation options. The Review highlights that a ‘systems’ approach has been recommended as a tool for managing these interactions, indeed advice from the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology who wrote to the Government in 2020, stated: “We believe that a rigorous systems approach will reveal the effects that policy decisions in all areas of government will have on delivery of net zero, enabling recommended that the Government strengthens the central oversight of net zero – which currently rests with BEIS decision-makers to understand how different policies interact and influence the transition of the whole economy towards net zero. It will also enable government to understand the interaction between mitigation, adaptation and resilience, including the need to protect biodiversity and wider sustainability initiatives.”
‘Net Zero Local Big Bang’ is another of the ten missions, with focus on unlocking the planning system and reforming the relationship between central and local government to give local authorities and communities the power needed to act on net zero. Our recommendations highlighted the benefits of strong net zero focus in local development plans in driving decarbonisation.
The Review is impressive and comprehensive, and the sense of urgency is clear. The extremes of weather experienced in the UK in 2022 were worrying evidence of the impacts of climate change. It is now over to the Government to set out their response and commitments, and the sooner the better.
SWM will continue to deliver activities and projects which we believe are directly relevant to the recommendations in the review:
- We will continue to support businesses to decarbonise through:
- Education and skills development through our involvement in programmes such as Green Advantage from Aston University, and the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Management with BEC and Coventry College
- Management of the West Midlands Net Zero Business Pledge, allowing businesses to receive recognition for the efforts in reducing emissions, with help along the way
- Working with WRAP to deliver pilot support to increase business recycling rates
- We will continue to provide bespoke support to businesses, universities, local authorities and NHS Trusts to develop their sustainability strategies and action plans.
- We will continue to support innovation in net zero solutions through:
- Our work in partnership with the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, including coordination of the Innovative Zero Carbon Working Group which has been established for over 10 years and has more than 200 cross-sector members
- Working with our members, Carbon Limiting Technologies, to deliver key events on behalf of Innovate UK, bringing together net zero businesses with investors
- Building on our portfolio of work on adaptation and resilience, in partnership with the Environment Agency we will:
- Continue to coordinate the West Midlands Climate Change Adaptation Working Group
- Focus on supporting the health and farming sectors in relation to adaptation and resilience
- Focus on showcasing examples of nature-based solutions and how they can achieve climate change adaptation outcomes.
- Support our stakeholders to demystify the Government’s third National Adaptation Programme (NAP)
- Continue our annual benchmarking of local authority performance on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, carried out over 10 years
CarbonBrief have produced a helpful and searchable table of actions from Mission Zero.