Government approach to net zero is “hugely damaging”

Philippa Forrester hosts panel session on net zero at InstallerSHOW 2024

The opening panel in the elemental Arena on day one of the InstallerSHOW last week tackled one of the most important topics surrounding the journey to net zero: government uncertainty.  

Former MP, Chris Skidmore, shared how he believes the current Conservative approach is “hugely damaging” to net zero goals. He said: “Net zero is an environmental imperative; the science has been proven. Our policies have been developed by world-leading scientists, academics, and civil servants but we are allowing other countries, like the United States and Germany, to lead that challenge, which means investment is going elsewhere.”

Uncertainty was the theme of the day with many panels touching on the frustration around changing net-zero policies. Without a clear direction, many businesses don’t feel confident to put their all into low-carbon technology or to work on decarbonising their operations. 

Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, explained: “We represent installers small and large and they’re saying that to invest in their businesses and convince their customers, they need clarity.”

Despite this lack of direction, many businesses are keen to move forward as soon as they have some guidance. Yselkla Farmer, CEO of BEAMA, echoed both Rippin’s and Skidmore’s comments. She said: “There’s a huge opportunity to grow the UK economy around low-carbon technology and we are missing that opportunity. I think a lot of damage has been done in the last year from this current government.”

The panelists also agreed that the sooner we have clear policy direction and investment, the lower the cost to hit net zero. “One thing that came out of the modelling we did with Energy Systems Catapult,” continued Farmer, “was evidence to show that early investment, pre-2035, in the supply chain, the grid, and built environment will result in a lower-cost transition to net zero.”

The sentiment of the panellists was that there’s a chance for the UK to become the leader in low-carbon technology while ensuring we can hit net zero goals. The supply chain is ready but without government support, there’s no clear pathway for businesses and consumers. 

Another topic the panel agreed on was the need to put power into the hands of local governments. “We can have these local frameworks that go beyond heat pumps,” said Skidmore in an interview following the session. “It’s about zoning and networks. That’s really important to think through because, potentially, there’s up to 7% of the country that can be delivered through heat networking. 

“But where’s the focus on working on streets to come together and create collective opportunities? Where’s the framework the policy incentives to deliver that? It’s not there at the moment.”