Already, 2023 feels like a crux point for net zero. First, it brought a robust assessment of the UK’s sustainability progress via Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review. Now, we have a major departmental reshuffle and the creation of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

James Hardy

James Hardy

This is an opportunity for the government to take stock and establish a clear plan to which industry can align itself. As Skidmore recognised, there is an absence of a strategic long-term policy for net zero in the UK.

Turner & Townsend’s recommendations, reflected in the final Net Zero Review, urged a coherent, ‘programmatic approach’ to the net zero transition. This would set out clear targets and the required technological, behavioural and strategic steps. It should encompass investment, market development and skills to deliver a step-change in green economic growth.

Joined-up thinking is central, so it is encouraging that Skidmore’s review called for the creation of an Office for Net Zero and a cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy. We might take the new departmental changes as a positive first step responding to this, but we must think bigger.

We need a co-ordinated approach with a pipeline of projects across infrastructure, natural resources and real estate. There are already great examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, such as the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the Vaccine Taskforce.

An exemplar for wider net zero delivery is the co-ordinated approach already being taken to retrofit in the UK. Schemes such as the Social Housing Retrofit Accelerator and the Home Upgrade Grant create a focused ‘starter market’ with £1.5bn of government seed funding to improve around four million homes.

Our industry knows the opportunities green growth has to offer, so let us hope this reshuffle is the start of government listening to Skidmore’s findings and developing a co-ordinated strategy for net zero – one that is truly cross sector, builds on previous programmes, invests in developing skills and embraces new, better ways of working.

James Hardy is director of net zero at consultancy Turner & Townsend