ishi Sunak has been warned that halting the UK’s progress towards net zero could ultimately burden consumers with extra costs.
The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), which represents more than 140 manufacturers, universities, local authorities and energy service providers working towards a green transition, has called on the Prime Minister to “go further and faster”.
It comes after Rishi Sunak faced a major backlash from cross-party MPs, environmental groups and scientists after confirming Government support for 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.
Downing Street also signalled that the Government is considering watering down green policies that put financial pressure on families due to the cost-of-living crisis.
If we are trying to avoid placing the burden of extra costs on the consumer, then halting progress on net zero is the last thing we should be considering
But in a letter on Monday, Caroline Bragg, interim chief executive officer of ADE, said the move could lead to more costs for the consumer in future.
The letter cited a recent analysis from Carbon Brief, which estimates that former Prime Minister David Cameron’s pause on green policies increased energy bills by £2.5 billion since 2013.
It said: “If we are trying to avoid placing the burden of extra costs on the consumer, then halting progress on net zero is the last thing we should be considering.”
The ADE said the decentralised energy sector, which involves energy generated close to where it will be used – often renewable – stands ready to support the UK’s net zero progress.
The organisation pointed to the Government’s independent review of net zero, which found that the transition would be worth £1 trillion to British businesses by 2030.
It also referred to the Government’s own estimates that private investment of £100 billion can be leveraged by the end of the decade if the UK sticks to the Net Zero Strategy, creating a total of 900,000 jobs by the end of the decade.
Ms Bragg wrote: “The Conservative Party has a long and prestigious tradition in acting decisively against climate change.
“Recent statements by your office, however, risk undermining that tradition and business confidence to invest in UK Plc, and at a time when other countries are doing so much to attract investment.”
She said that through energy efficiency, heat networks and industrial decarbonisation, the sector is maintaining the UK’s industrial competitiveness, shielding people from climate change and saving consumers money or even returning it to their pockets.
She added: “Within the energy sector, decentralised energy companies are already saving consumers money through decarbonisation: Now is the time to go further and faster to make sure the UK and its citizens reap the benefit of the new industrial revolution.”
Last month, Downing Street made clear that ministers are scrutinising existing net zero pledges “in light of some of the cost-of-living challenges”, citing the potential for technological advances.
Right-wing Tories are urging the Prime Minister to review the deadlines around environmental measures after voter concerns about the expansion of London’s ultra low emission zone (Ulez) helped the party hang on to Boris Johnson’s old Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat during last month’s by-election.
The result has given the governing party hope that its chances of pulling off a shock general election victory are not over if it can focus on issues where there is a clear divide with Labour.
The Prime Minister has also been criticised over his announcement of around 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.
He has insisted that granting the licences is “entirely consistent” with the UK’s commitments on net zero.
A Government spokesperson said: “The UK is a world leader on net zero, cutting emissions faster than any other G7 country, and we remain committed to meeting our climate targets while driving economic growth and bringing down energy bills.
“Last year, renewables accounted for over 40 per cent of our electricity, increasing to almost 48 per cent in the first quarter of this year, and with the four largest operational winds farms in the world off our shores and significant investment in nuclear power, we expect to continue leading global efforts on climate change.
“But we know that the number one concern for families up and down the country today is the immediate cost-of-living challenge and that’s why we are working hard to protect consumers from rising costs while pressing ahead with our net zero ambitions.”