Net Zero – Preparations Continue

Net Zero – Preparations Continue

13 Feb 2024 Posted By Chris Ashley

RHA Policy Lead for Environment and Vehicles Chris Ashley dissects Labours changes to net zero plans and what it means for our sector.

Last week’s announcement by the Labour Party of changes to its flagship “Green Prosperity Plan” once again brought the question of how the UK’s commitments to achieve Net Zero are achieved. Following announcements of a similar vein by the Conservative Party last summer, it is tempting to think that Net Zero may go away. This however would be a mistake.

One thing which remains unchanged is the legally-binding target legislated for by Parliament where the UK is “net zero” by 2050. The question therefore is not over the “what”. That’s because, save for a future Parliament passing a law to change the 2050 date, the UK is still obliged to meet that target. Instead, a debate is now clearly emerging on “how” we achieve that target.

Painful though this may be, the RHA welcomes this debate and will continue in its efforts to ensure that there is full political oversight of the many issues to be resolved. In particular, we have long-held concerns over how small businesses are supported throughout the transition. What’s more, when an estimated £100bn of investment is needed to decarbonise the HGV sector alone, these concerns are not yet resolved. Uncomfortable decisions are likely on how this investment is funded – will the costs be passed on directly to the consumer or absorbed by government somehow?

Nevertheless, the RHA detects that the very difficult aspects of Net Zero are now rightly rising up the political agenda to be addressed. Something to look out for is the Climate Change Committee’s forthcoming “Seventh Carbon Budget” which, we understand, will specifically focus on affordability issues. We will ensure that we feed into this and other discussions so that all our members’ needs, including our small members, are catered for.

Against this context, the RHA’s Net Zero Forum met last week to consider further what our sector can do to prepare for the changes that lie ahead. Our keynote speaker was Dr Russell Fowler from the National Grid whose message on Net Zero was very clear - collaboration between different industries is essential. In particular, whilst we can be assured the National Grid is planning its investments to ensure the electricity grid can cope with the expected increases in energy demand, communicating each others’ needs is vital to validate the assumptions the National Grid are making.

The next steps for the RHA therefore are how we can help the National Grid and other energy companies with their endeavours. Much-needed practical guides on how you can connect to the electricity grid are being developed, which we will collate and promote. Meanwhile, we will continue engaging with the “Connections Action Plan” announced by the Prime Minister last year to speed up the process to connect to the grid.

Back however to the thorny issue of financing the transition to Net Zero. Following the welcome report published in November by the Green Finance Institute that shed much-needed light on this subject, we will be stimulating throughout this year the discussions needed amongst our membership to inform our “asks” to ensure the transition is affordable.

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