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By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Time for the Government to pivot on net-zero

The SPD/Green coalition in Germany have adopted a more pragmatic approach to energy policy. Labour mayor Andy Burnham is rethinking Greater Manchester's Clean Air Zone. Surely its time for the Conservative government to review its net zero ambitions? Frank McKenna calls on the government to ‘pivot’ on energy policy in his latest Downtown blog.

“You don’t get ‘owt for nowt” – an old Lancashire saying that we would do well to heed as we face the realities of a post-Brexit, post-COVID, conflict-ridden world. No more so than in the area of energy policy.

The UKs ambition to achieve net-zero by 2050 is a laudable one, and all, other than climate change denier loons, would applaud the sentiment.

However, recent events have proven that security of supply is as vital as reducing emissions, Europe’s unfortunate over-reliance on Russian gas and oil brought into sharp focus by the prime minister having to go cap-in-hand to the Saudi’s to try and persuade the Gulf states to boost their own production of oil and gas.

Domestically too, the realities have shifted. Can we seriously consider adding up to £50,000 per household (according to independent assessments) to achieve net zero with the current economic challenges people are facing?

At local level as well, the penny is dropping. The opposition to Manchester’s Clean Air Zone was so extreme that mayor Andy Burnham dropped the initial plans that would have seen the introduction of road charging.

In his Spring Statement next week, Rishi Sunak should quietly move the government into a more realistic place on net zero. Totally abandoning green-friendly policies would be reckless. But so too is leaving the country vulnerable to energy shortages and pushing millions of people into poverty. As a minimum, he should drop the 16% ‘green levy’ on fuel bills.

More broadly, the government should instigate a more mature, informed debate on producing shale, lifting the moratorium on Fracking, and increasing production of our own gas and oil in the North Sea.

Britain is massively exposed now, meaning that there is a real threat of power cuts, and we are completely at the mercy of a volatile global market in Liquid Natural Gas.   

Good leaders, in business and politics, know when to pivot. If an SDP/Green coalition government in Germany can take a more pragmatic approach to the green agenda; if a Labour mayor can pause for thought on Greater Manchester’s clean air zone; then surely a Conservative government can adopt a more grown-up energy policy? 

Downtown in Business