Our Vision for the Net-Zero Transition

UK Policy Net Zero

Our Vision for the Net-Zero Transition

Commentary
Posted on: 29th July 2021

Climate change – and the transition to a net-zero economy and society – is the biggest challenge the world faces. For this transition to occur in an efficient and equitable manner, and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, governments and businesses must have a clear plan of action.

At the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), we are uniquely positioned to help governments navigate the challenges posed by climate change and the net-zero transition. We exist to equip leaders with fresh, progressive, practical policy ideas and solutions, and our expert team brings together specialists from climate policy, technology, innovation and international development.

How we see the net-zero challenge:

Combatting climate change, and reaching net zero, requires a transition across our whole economy and society that must be fully integrated into the work of governments, businesses and institutions – in the UK and internationally.

Net zero is going to happen – the scale and pace of the climate crisis, and the growing commitments from around the world, make that an inevitability. The challenge is to ensure that the associated economic transformation is delivered quickly enough to avoid catastrophic global warming and that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are able to adapt to the consequences of a situation that is not of their making. Economies across the world must be enabled to continue to grow inclusively, and in an orderly way.

And how we see the solution:

It is possible for the global economy to continue to grow and for people consume sustainably if the right frameworks are in place. New technology and cost reduction, underpinned by increased capabilities and cooperation between the public and private sectors in LMICs, mean that there does not need to be a trade-off between net zero and continued global growth.

Politicians currently lag behind the public and business. The conditions for a political coalition that can deliver net zero are increasingly in place, both in the UK and internationally – but there is no compelling political or policy proposition to meet the demand for one. As a result, there is a real opportunity for politicians and businesses who can turn climate concern into an agenda for positive change. There is a strong positive case for delivering net zero, including significant economic, health and social opportunities, but this is currently poorly articulated. That creates political opportunity – but also risk if unsuccessful.

LMICs are set to be impacted most by climate change, despite contributing the least and being least equipped to handle its impacts. Advanced economies must ensure that prospects for economic growth and improvements in livelihoods in LMICs are not jeopardised by the need to transition to net zero, including through financial and technical support to enable the transition to low-carbon energy. Support must be anchored to the economic-transformation (industrialisation) agendas of LMICs to increase their likelihood of success, while optimising their contribution to net zero and adapting to the impacts.

The world needs to transition rapidly away from unabated fossil fuels. While these fuels continue to play an important role in the global energy mix – particularly in enabling economic and social development in LMICs until realistic sustainable alternatives come forward – investments in unabated fossil fuels must be justifiable from a net-zero perspective (e.g., where a credible, more sustainable option is not available, and where a longer-term transition plan is in place).

We believe that six key principles must be at the heart of the net-zero transition – and these will be reflected in all of the Institute’s work on climate change:

  1. Pace: the window for action is small. We need to rapidly accelerate the pace of the transition to net zero.
  2. People: a political coalition must be built from the centre, based around a positive and benefits-focused case for action for people at all income levels.
  3. Fairness: the net-zero transition needs to be fair (and be perceived to be fair) – both within countries, and between them.
  4. Technology and growth: technology innovation and cost reduction can deliver decarbonisation and inclusive economic growth, for example by facilitating broader access to and control over energy use. Technology must support the net-zero transition for LMICs without impeding economic growth.
  5. Markets and government working together: the challenge of mobilising the investment required for net zero necessitates collaboration between the private sector and the state; neither can deliver this transition alone.
  6. Communities: the changes required for net zero will differ depending on the local needs and capabilities of different communities. Community engagement should therefore be blended with centralised decision-making to ensure local buy-in and that any changes integrate into the broader system.

The TBI approach to net zero:

With these principles in mind, we will work to support leaders and help them benefit from the transformational opportunities of investing in policies, tools and technologies to support action on climate change.

We will work proactively across our global network to convene leaders and thinkers on key issues, and we will offer ideas and solutions for delivering climate action and green industrialisation in LMICs to enable a transition with benefits across economies and societies.

Finally, we will utilise our unique insight and relationships to help build and sustain the broad-based political coalition that will be essential to reaching net zero at home and abroad over the next 30 years.

Lead Image: Getty Images

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