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Net Zero Is Vital To Keeping Energy Costs Low And Cutting The Cost Of Living

Government should not wave the white flag in the global race for the green industrial revolution.

Net zero is not just an environmental policy. It’s an economic plan to lower people’s bills and create new high-paid jobs. If we are going to cut the cost of living, we can’t abandon a policy that will protect our planet and secure Britain’s future prosperity.

Despite claims to the contrary, “green policies” are not to blame for the squeeze on household budgets. Post-pandemic economic turbulence and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have caused energy costs to spiral and inflation to rise, not environmentalism.

If it weren’t for our country’s progress in building renewables, the gas crisis would have hit families and businesses with even bigger energy bills. Even before the crunch, solar and wind power were half the price of gas. Now, they’re four times cheaper and paying millions of pounds back to consumers.

Both extremes in the energy debate have got it wrong. The eco-warriors who want to end oil and gas extraction in the North Sea immediately risk losing public support for an orderly transition to a net zero economy. At the same time, those campaigning to switch off renewables would push energy bills up and deepen our dependence on expensive fossil fuels.

Nor is fracking a magic bullet for the energy price crunch. The fierce local resistance and safety concerns alone are enough to rule it out. But suppose new scientific evidence deemed fracking safe, local opposition disappeared, and we replicated the model of American shale gas extraction. It would take years to scale up, and any gas produced would still be sold at volatile and expensive international market prices.

In comparison, renewables are the cheapest energy available and can be scaled up relatively quickly. While any sensible strategy needs a mix of energy sources, wind and solar power must be at its heart to lower bills and achieve energy sovereignty. The government’s new energy security strategy does just that by turbocharging cheap renewables, creating a strong UK nuclear sector, and maximising North Sea oil and gas as we go net zero.

Other net zero policies such as insulating Britain’s draughty homes are also vital to quickly cutting bills. Abolishing VAT on insulation, heat pumps, and solar panels, which the Conservative Environment Network pushed for in the Spring Statement, will help families invest in energy efficiency and cut bills. The government should combine this with a renewed and expanded scheme to insulate fuel-poor households to help get people through the gas crisis.

But net zero promises more than that. It is also integral to levelling up and revitalising our former industrial heartlands. With 90 per cent of the world’s economy now covered by net zero goals, ditching or delaying the UK’s ambition would be akin to flying the white flag in the new global race for a green industrial revolution. We can only win new industries and jobs by blazing a trail to net zero, cutting bills and helping millions into skilled and better-paid work.

We must also not forget the reason why net zero is necessary. Decarbonisation will help prevent the worst consequences of climate change, so we don’t live in a far more volatile, chaotic world, where flooding, extreme weather and rising sea levels will cost the UK dearly.

We must deliver on our promise to achieve net zero by 2050. It will protect our environment, lower the cost of living, and transform the economic fortunes of communities across the UK. The answer to this energy crisis is not to slow down but to speed up.

First published by PoliticsHome. Chris Skidmore MP (Kingswood) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.


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