What Is The UK’s Net Zero Strategy?

by Akshay Jamdade

Understanding Net Zero

The nation that, by being the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, opened the door to accelerated climate change plans to lead the world into a Green Industrial Revolution [1, 2]. Building upon the legally binding Climate Change Act of 2008 and a Ten Point Plan published in 2020, the UK government released in 2021 its 368-page “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and ahead of last year’s Conference of Parties, COP26 [2, 3]. This document outlines the UK’s strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and features four fundamental principles, namely 1) consumer-centrism, 2) polluters pay a fair price, 3) government support for the most vulnerable, and 4) cooperation with businesses to deliver cost reduction in low carbon technology [2]. 

To reach its mitigation targets, and eventually net zero, the UK has since the adoption of its Climate Change Act in 2008 set carbon budgets with an interval of five years each. So far, the UK has beaten these carbon budgets, as seen in Figure 1. Compared to 1990 levels, by 2019 its emissions have declined 40%. However, projections indicate a growing gap between future emissions (blue line), predicting a decline of emissions by 54%, and the delivery pathway for net zero by 2050 which would see emission levels fall by 80% by 2037 compared to 1990 [2]. To bring the UK back on course, the UK’s Net Zero Strategy consists of a list of activities and policies across different sectors that will be discussed below.  

Figure 1: UK’s Net Zero Projections 

Source: Carbon Brief 2021[4]

The graph depicts the UK’s self-set carbon budgets (CB) in relation to historical emissions and potential future emission pathways. CB1 to CB5 did not include emissions from International Aviation and Shipping, CB6 considers these emissions. The delivery pathway in red depicts the UK’s Net Zero Strategy. 


The UK envisions a fully decarbonized power sector by 2035, subject to the security of supply. A compilation of low carbon technologies is set to be utilized. These include Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), 40GW offshore wind, and 1GW of floating offshore to be installed over the next eight years as well as storage technologies to accommodate price hikes. The delivery pathway also anticipates the creation of 120,000 jobs by 2030 and a mobilization of 270 billion pounds of funds [2].

Fuel Supply, Hydrogen and Cross Cutting Action:

Certain sectors are heavily reliant on fossil fuels and therefore challenging to electrify. To overcome this, the UK plans to secure 30 billion pounds of funds and deliver 5GW hydrogen production capacity. [2] The UK’s Net Zero Strategy plans to amplify net zero emission innovation necessary for the transition with the help of the UK Infrastructure Bank, the introduction of the Sustainability Disclosure Regime, and the UK green taxonomy [2].

Industry and Greenhouse Gas Removals (GGR): 

The UK outlines capturing 6MtCO2 of industrial emissions per year by 2030. Across the entire economy it even plans to deliver four carbon capture usage and storage clusters capturing more than 20MtCO2 per year by 2030. Aiding net zero by incentivizing cost-effective abatement and supporting more than 50,000 industrial jobs in 2030,  greenhouse gas removals are a key component of decarbonizing the economy according to the UK’s Net Zero Strategy. Thus, the UK plans to adopt a Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification system for GGR [2].

Figure 2: Industry Emissions Pathway

Source: Net Zero Strategy 2021 [2]

Heat and Buildings:

This sector is expected to see a decline in costs triggering the deployment of electric heating and hydrogen boilers by 2035. Additionally, the efficiency of heating applications is predicted to increase. A Boiler Upgrade Scheme, a Heat Pump Ready Programme, funding for social housing decarbonization, and home upgrade grants, all spelled out in the Net Zero Strategy, keep the customer at the center of the transition [2].


Figure 3 demonstrates the Net Zero Pathway for domestic transport. As shown in the graph, the delivery pathway foresees an 80% decrease in emissions by 2037  as compared to 2025 level. The Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate (ZEV) aspires to establish greener, faster, and more efficient transportation. Funding of 600+million pounds is aimed at creting the necessary EV infrastructure, e.g. charging stations, while additional funds for the electrification of UK vehicles will be provided. The UK aims to deploy 4000 zero-emissions bus and railway networks in the coming 28 years [2].

Figure 3:: Indicative domestic transport emissions pathway to 2037

Source: Source: Net Zero Strategy 2021 [2]

Natural Resources, waste, and fluorinated gasses:

The UK supports low carbon farming practises for better productivity and higher efficiency of land usage like agroforestry through Farming Fund and Farming Innovation Programme [2]. It also plans on restoring more than 250,000 hectares of Peat by 2050. Additionally it will mobilize funds for R&D, shift to a circular economy, enhance resource efficiency and eliminate municipal biodegradable waste [2]. 

Reference List

[1] The first Industrial Revolution, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Industrial-Revolution/The-first-Industrial-Revolution [Last Accessed: 10th December 2021]
[2] Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, 2021, HM Government, ISBN 978-1-5286-2938-6
[3] The United Kingdom’s pioneering Climate Change Act, 2021, OECD, https://www.oecd.org/climate-action/ipac/practices/the-united-kingdom-s-pioneering-climate-change-act-c08c3d7a/ [Last Accessed: 8th December 2021]
[4] Evans, S. & Gabbatiss, J., 2021, Carbon Brief,  https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-the-uks-net-zero-strategy [Last Accessed: 10th December 2021 ] 
Categories EU - Policies

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