Achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is a ‘colossal challenge’, spending watchdog warns

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  • December 4, 2020
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he government’s ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is a “colossal challenge” which can only be delivered by a “concerted national effort”, according to a spending watchdog report.

Without further action, it warns, Britain’s emissions will exceed its targets, while fundamental change will be required across industry and wider society, from how we travel, use land and heat buildings.

The NAO report criticises the Government for not clearly setting out the roles of public bodies outside of central government departments, despite many, such as local authorities, having critical roles to play. 

The report also calls on the Government to develop and monitor clear and consistent data on progress around net zero policies across government, and collate information on how much it has committed and spent.

While the costs of achieving net zero are projected to be high – around 1-2 per cent of GDP in 2050 – the NAO notes that “the cost of inaction would be far greater” due to the need to adapt to catastrophic climate change, from flood defences to the impact on health spending of higher temperatures. 

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “While emissions have reduced steadily in recent years, achieving net zero is an enormously challenging long-term project, which will require well thought-out cross-government coordination to drive unprecedented changes across society and the economy.”

“Government needs to step up to the challenge, ensuring it has a clear strategy to achieve its goal and accurately monitoring progress.”