New report warns "urgent and decisive” leadership required to achieve net zero

19 Feb 2024

A new report warns that ‘urgent and decisive’ leadership is needed for the UK to achieve its net zero goal: in other words, the UK government’s commitment to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Governance for net zero, published today by the British Academy, brings together insights from British Academy commissioned research with discussions between academics, businesses, civil society organisations and policymakers. The report argues that the significant socio-economic changes required to meet the UK’s ambitious net zero goal are “critically dependent” on the quality of governance.

The report focuses on two key aspects of governance which are crucial to achieving net zero: leadership and people – as well as how they interact. Key findings for decision-makers include:

  • Clear and committed leadership is critical towards enabling net zero policies, particularly at local and community levels
  • Elected local leaders face challenges such as: limited financial resources, differences in the prioritisation of net zero at central vs local levels, and ambiguity over leadership roles
  • Good localised governance requires long-term, central support, and should be adaptable to the changing needs of local communities
  • People are critical to the transition to net zero. Policymakers must embrace the crucial role that members of the public play in giving a mandate for ambitious net zero policies
  • Where net zero policies may cause disruption to people, particularly marginalised groups – for example, deploying heat pumps at scale – good governance, which includes accountable leadership and good public engagement, will help to sustain support for net zero

This new publication is the second British Academy report exploring issues of sustainable futures, following Where We Live Next (2023), which focuses on the role of place in policymaking for environmental sustainability.  The programme will next commission research to explore practical solutions for local authorities to deliver net zero.

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