UK MP Chris Skidmore has warned of the dangers that falling behind on net zero will pose to the country.
Speaking at the Reuters Impact conference in London on 6 September, he said: “Net zero is no longer a climate measure, it’s an economic reality. [It] is here to stay […] we can either get on board with that or miss out.”
In his previous role as the UK’s Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Skidmore was the minister who signed the UK’s net-zero pledge into law.
Earlier this year, Skidmore’s independent review into the UK’s net-zero transition recommended 25 policies achievable by 2025 to focus on and warned that “a thriving natural environment is inextricably linked with protecting our climate and growing our economy”.
The issue, Skidmore said, is that there is no long-term funding ringfenced for net zero in the UK, unlike in Germany or the US. This means that when political will wanes, so does action. Referencing this year’s progress report from the UK’s Climate Change Committee, he explained: “We are on track to meet our carbon budgets until 2027, and then it starts to come off the rails.”
However, the MP disputed the claim that the country as a whole was moving the wrong way. “When you look at the technological pace of change, regardless of the political situation, actually things are going in the right direction. The challenge is maintaining the political momentum and […] providing certainty to industry and to businesses because if they’re given certainty they get on with the job.”
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Despite this, there are clear signs that government inaction is likely to mean the UK will miss multiple climate targets, as well as what Skidmore described as a “massive opportunity to set out a vision for what the future of Britain could be.” As a result, he argued: “Jobs will go abroad, companies will relocate elsewhere. Investment decisions will not come to UK, there is [sic] no free ride or opportunities in net zero.”
Skidmore also discussed the upcoming COP28 UN climate conference, supporting the idea of companies seeking accreditation having “to demonstrate certain criteria [on environmental commitments] in order to attend.”
Elsewhere, he pointed out the importance of continuing to hold conference hosts to account beyond the confines of the actual event. Skidmore said: “When you look at a high emitting state like the UAE they can’t just host the conference and think that’s their job done. We’ve got to maintain their commitment.”
His overall message to government was clear: “You’ve got to be bold and set out a vision. That’s what leadership is about. If you’re not willing to do that then don’t lead.”