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The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050. This means that the total greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to the emissions removed from the atmosphere, with the aim of limiting global warming and resultant climate change.

The UK Government has adopted a suite of policies in order to reach net zero, set out in two strategy publications, the Net Zero Strategy (2021) and Powering Up Britain: The Net Zero Growth Plan (2023).

Policy developments in 2023

The 2021 Net Zero Strategy set out a series of policies and commitments designed to enable the UK to reach net zero by 2050. It includes measures to deliver emissions reductions to meet targets up to the sixth carbon budget (which covers the period between 2033 and 2037).

The 2023 Net Zero Growth Plan set out an update to the existing strategies, focusing on the scale up and deployment of technologies for decarbonising homes, power, industry and transport. This update also fulfilled the 2022 High Court judgment for the government to set out more detail on how it aims to reach net zero.

Recent policy developments also include the Prime Minister’s speech on net zero in September 2023, which updated policy positions and set out a revised approach to reaching net zero with the intention “to ease the burdens on working people”.

Scrutiny of the government approach

These strategies and policies have been subject to scrutiny from parliamentary committees, independent third-party reviews, and wider media attention. The Climate Change Committee undertakes an annual assessment of policies that contribute to the net zero by 2050 target, which it submits to Parliament. Its June 2023 Progress Report (PDF) set out a decrease in confidence for the UK meeting mid-term targets on the way to 2050. Wider stakeholders have also commented on the UK’s progress and whether it is on track to reach the net zero target.

This briefing provides an overview of the background context for net zero, key UK policies since 2020, and current progress towards this goal. It gives a breakdown of current net zero policy by some of the key sectors, including stakeholder commentary on this progress.

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