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Decarbonising industry can’t wait for ‘technologies of tomorrow’, says Tory MP

Decarbonising industries such as steel will be a major part of reaching net zero (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Decarbonising industries such as steel will be a major part of reaching net zero (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The UK should not wait for the “technologies of tomorrow” to decarbonise its industries, the net zero tsar has said.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore said the UK’s industrial emissions could be more than halved using technology available “today, right at our fingertips” as he launched a series of proposals for helping industry reach net zero.

Mr Skidmore said: “Eighty per cent of the UK’s gas use comes from 8% of all businesses – mainly key industries such as steel, cement, glass and chemical refining.

“If we can take urgent action to decarbonise these sectors then we can make a huge shift towards our goals. Yet the Government hasn’t committed to a long-term and stable plan for how we can decarbonise these industries now.”

The proposals appeared in a report published on Friday, the latest in a series from Mr Skidmore’s Mission Zero Network setting out how the UK can reach net zero and following on from the Net Zero Review carried out by the former minister last year.

They include pursuing a “twin track” approach, with greater focus on electrification, digitisation and microgeneration of power alongside the Government’s existing efforts to develop hydrogen and carbon capture and storage technology.

Mr Skidmore said: “We don’t need to wait for the technologies of tomorrow to act today, especially when we could be focusing on these high-emitting sectors to reach our emissions goals for 2030, not just 2050.”

He also urged a change in policy to provide “more carrots” for industries to cut carbon emissions, saying the UK “can’t simply continue to hand out credits as if they’re some kind of indulgence”.

The report comes shortly after Rishi Sunak arrived in Dubai for the Cop28 summit, which also received a message from the King in which he said the world was “dreadfully far off” achieving its climate goals.

Mr Skidmore has recently been critical of the Government’s stance on net zero, and particularly Mr Sunak’s decision to row back from a number of climate change commitments, arguing that the UK needs a stable, long-term plan to cut emissions.

Cabinet meeting
Chris Skidmore, the net zero tsar, has produced a series of reports calling for long-term plans to provide certainty around net zero (David Mirzoeff/PA)

At an event to launch Friday’s report, he reiterated calls for a “long-term, stable pathway… that’s away from the hands of the politicians”.

He said: “We’ve seen this already being developed, not just in the States with their own industrial decarbonisation issues. We’ve seen this developed in Germany with their 10-year guarantee for a hydrogen strategy that’s worth billions, not millions, and I think we’re also beginning to see it, potentially, in Keir Starmer’s own energy policy around having a green industrial mission.

“But the detail of that needs to be set out, so as we go into 2024 with a general election around the corner we need key commitments from all political parties on how they are going to provide support for industry.”

Helen Lamprell, chief legal and transformation officer at industrial software company Aveva, which supported Mr Skidmore’s report, said: “This is a complex challenge, requiring careful co-ordination right across our economy. And we must be aware that we are operating in a global market for investment.

“At Aveva we are already involved in live clean hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects in the US, Germany, China – but here in the UK progress has been slower.

“The work of the Mission Zero Network in identifying how best to galvanise greater momentum in these sectors is so urgently needed because rising to the challenge of industrial decarbonisation is not only central to meeting the UK’s net zero commitments, but also essential to ensuring the UK maintains a competitive industrial sector into the future.”