Net Zero Carbon Policy

Net Zero Carbon Policy is an Energy Systems Catapult thought leadership project, focusing on how the UK can develop an innovation-friendly, economy-wide framework for Net Zero.

We are building on the insights from our Rethinking Decarbonisation Incentives project, to develop credible policy options for an efficient and socially beneficial transition.

The Challenge

Only thirty years remain before the UK must legally reach Net Zero carbon emissions. All major emitting sectors – transport, heating, manufacturing, power generation, and farming – will need to change radically to get as close as possible to zero emissions by 2050. Our Rethinking Decarbonisation Incentives project, however, found that the UK’s current carbon policy framework is not fit for purpose to deliver such ambitions.

Our work showed that the current incentives (i.e. the ‘effective carbon price’ paid per tonne CO2e) arising from UK policies vary wildly across different sectors, even though the value of emissions reductions for mitigating climate change is the same. In simple terms, this suggests we may be over-rewarding some kinds of emissions-reducing activity while under-rewarding it in other activities or sectors.

The chart below shows the effective carbon prices and emissions in the UK by sector – the chart can be downloaded here, along with the underlying assumptions and data.

Figure 1: Effective carbon prices and emissions in the UK by sector

Figure 1: Effective carbon prices and emissions in the UK by sector

A Sector Led Approach to an Economy-Wide Carbon Policy Framework

We have proposed that a sector led approach, which recognises the importance of sector specific barriers to change, provides the best opportunity to develop an economy-wide carbon policy framework pursuant with Net Zero.

By avoiding reliance on an overarching carbon pricing mechanism, policy can be designed at a sectoral level to address sector specific challenges, for example mitigating competitiveness impacts in industrial decarbonisation or enabling energy suppliers to create attractive consumer propositions for home energy services and heat decarbonisation.

Similarly, transitional and distributional impacts often have sector specific characteristics that require sector specific policy responses (e.g. targeted fuel poverty interventions).

Click here to download image below.

Figure 2: A sector led approach to an economy-wide carbon policy framework

Figure 2: A sector led approach to an economy-wide carbon policy framework

Net Zero Carbon Policy - Reports

Towards Industrial Decarbonisation: The Strategic Role of Industrial Clusters

Highlights key themes for policymakers to consider in developing industrial clusters as a key component of a broader national strategy and policy framework to drive industrial decarbonisation across the economy.

Read more

The future of UK carbon policy: how could the UK ETS evolve to help achieve net zero?

Explores the implications should the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) be expanded to include three further sectors beyond those already covered by the scheme.

Read more

The Net Zero Strategy and COP26: An Opportunity for UK Leadership in Net Zero Policymaking

Sets out how the UK can build on its existing regime of carbon targets to create a framework of policies and governance capable of delivering Net Zero.

Read more

The Case for an Economy-Wide Carbon Regulator

Makes the case for a new regulator to oversee accurate and coherent monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions reduction and removal across the economy.

Read more

Industrial Decarbonisation: Net Zero Carbon Policies to Mitigate Carbon Leakage and Competitiveness Impacts

Focuses on the UK context of international competitiveness impacts that arise directly from carbon policies and evaluate their ability to enable deep decarbonisation of industry in line with Net Zero pathways, while simultaneously mitigating carbon leakage and competitiveness impacts.

Read more

Developing Carbon Credit Markets

Explores how linking sectoral policies through trading can play a key role in opening a pathway to an economy-wide carbon policy framework.

Read more

Accelerating to Net Zero: A Sector Led Approach to Economy-Wide Carbon Policy Framework

Explores and make the argument for taking a sector led approach that can accelerate progress during the 2020s from the incomplete and unbalanced pattern of current carbon policies towards a more coherent economy-wide carbon policy framework in the 2030s.

Read more

Net Zero Carbon Policy - Comment

One small step for Net Zero, but still no giant leap

In September, we published “The Net Zero Strategy and COP26: An Opportunity for UK Leadership in Net Zero Policymaking” in which we asked Government to commit to seven key recommendations. So, how do the COP outcomes and the hundreds of pages of Government output stack up against our recommended commitments?

Read more

If the UK is to achieve Net Zero, a carbon tax is not the silver bullet

Moves to simply apply a blanket carbon tax across the economy are unlikely to unlock the innovations we need to meet our ambitious targets and risk backfiring if not handled with care.

Read more

If Government is serious about Net Zero, it must implement a UK Emissions Trading System in 2021

But carbon pricing – either through a tax or a trading scheme – is not enough on its own to deliver that revolution. Getting the incentives rights is about a delicate balance between innovation support, regulation, and carbon pricing.

Read more

Net Zero Carbon Policy

The implementation of robust and enduring policies and regulation will be essential to building the necessary confidence with innovators to invest in low carbon products and services.

Read more

UK Emissions Trading System - Blog series

Part 1 – A window of opportunity for the UK to build world-leading carbon policy

The UK wants to be a global leader in the fight against climate change, and it can take a massive step forward this year by increasing the ambition of the new UK Emissions Trading System.

Read more

Part 2 – How could the UK ETS be adapted and aligned with a market framework for zero carbon power?

Achieving zero carbon electricity by 2035 will be key to decarbonising many other sectors. The UK ETS combined with electricity decarbonisation policy mandates could be vital.

Read more

Part 3 – How could a buildings decarbonisation strategy be linked to future developments of the UK ETS?

The UK ETS currently omits natural gas (and other fuels used for heating). If the scope of the UK ETS were expanded to cover buildings, specifically heating, we potentially introduce 27 million – mostly unwilling and uninterested – participants.

Read more

Part 4 – How could the UK ETS work for industry and help UK competitiveness?

If UK industry is to lead the green industrial revolution towards Net Zero, Government will not only have to incentivise deep decarbonisation of industry, but also ensure that UK industrial competitiveness is not unduly impacted.

Read more

Part 5 – What is required for the UK ETS to link to the EU ETS?

The UK left the world’s largest carbon market – the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) – at the end of 2020. But with the UK holding its first auction of allowances recently, should we starting to think about linking the smaller UK market to its larger and older European cousin?

Read more

Part 6 – New regulator could shape world leading UK emissions accounting regime to underpin UK ETS and our Net Zero ambitions

There is no point in creating policies like an Emissions Trading System or Carbon Performance Standards if the measurements they rely on bear little relation to empirical reality.

Read more

Part 7 – How could incentives for land use be linked to future developments of the UK ETS?

Land use was always going to play an important role for emissions reduction, but Net Zero has upped the ante for the sectors directly impacted – agriculture and forestry. But how do we incentivise nature-based greenhouse gas removals and does the UK ETS have a role to play?

Read more

Part 8 – How can the UK use its ETS to help reduce global emissions?

If the UK can make genuine progress to align its new UK Emissions Trading System with its legislated Net Zero target, then it can claim to be a global leader in carbon policy. This blog focuses on the many areas where UK experience has international relevance.

Read more

Who is Involved?

Throughout developing our thought leadership work we have received feedback from a range of expert advisors, including from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; HM Treasury; Climate Change Committee; Scottish Forestry; Confederation of British Industry; Vivid Economics; Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics; E3G; Green Alliance; Conservative Environment Network; Children’s Investment Fund Foundations; Drax; SSE; High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Next Steps

We will be continuing to develop our thought leadership work over the coming years, including:

  • Further exploring the role of UK carbon pricing, including improvements to the UK ETS.
  • Deeper dives into the role of an economy-wide carbon regulator.
  • Leading on the international stage in the run up to COP26
  • Linking sectoral carbon policy packages for power, buildings, and industry.
  • Exploring the role of carbon policy for industrial decarbonisation, including clusters, and the role of CCS, hydrogen, and greenhouse gas removals.

In addition, we hope to leverage our expertise to support UK industry and advise other jurisdictions (e.g. Malaysia) in achieving their Net Zero ambitions.

Markets, Policy and Regulation

Independent thought leadership that combines expertise in clean technology, economics, and energy policy design, informed by cutting-edge modelling and evidence-based analysis.

Find out more

Want to know more?

Find out more about how Energy Systems Catapult can help you and your teams