We know that many domestic and overseas investors are exploring the opportunity to fund our transition, but they require clarity on the government's green infrastructure priorities. For the U.K. to be an investible proposition, in a world with increasing government intervention to attract investment (see America's incentive-laden $370 billion Inflation Reduction Act), we must continue to telegraph which green projects we consider vital, with supportive policy as well as explicit cross-party support and buy-in.
Recent announcements suggest the U.K. seems to be moving in the right direction, albeit not at the pace required by some. The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero should bring some welcome alignment to U.K. sustainability policy, which has historically been developed across several government departments. But if the U.K. is going to finance the growth of its own green super-economy, we urgently need to think beyond policy and toward delivery.
The London Olympic Games owes much of its success to the Olympic Delivery Authority, the non-departmental public body established in 2006 to plan and oversee the construction of venues, infrastructure and transport for the London 2012 Games, at speed. The government saw the opportunity the Games offered and established a unit dedicated to deliver it. One can't help but reflect on whether we need a body of similar weight and authority if we are to decarbonize our energy system by 2035.
Speed will decide not only whether we achieve green superpower status but also how much it will cost. A recent report from the Office for Budget Responsibility concluded that "acting early could halve the price of getting to net zero by 2050 compared to acting late." What are we waiting for?
We face a trying economic environment, with the cost-of-living crisis, persistent inflation and disparities in regional growth across the U.K. Investing in decarbonization will not only mitigate the impacts of the global climate crisis but will also generate vast economic benefits for the U.K. According to a recent report by CBI Economics, net zero has the potential to unlock £71 billion ($85.5 billion) in gross value added for the U.K. economy every year, encouraging regional growth, generating thousands of green jobs and enabling the U.K. to generate cheaper and more secure energy.
The U.K. is well positioned to lead the charge and we have already fired our own starting pistol. We were one of the first economies to announce a legally binding net zero by 2050 emissions target, are renowned as a world-leading financial services hub, and possess a rich supply of natural resources. However, we need a central authority with the perspective to join the dots and the authority to deliver if we're to scale climate finance and infrastructure at the pace required to achieve our 2050 targets.
Creating a Net Zero Delivery Authority could be instrumental in liberalizing planning and consenting regulation, allowing for speedier erection of green infrastructure, standardizing reporting and acting as a central unit to coordinate public and private investment in climate projects. I'd hope that it could also galvanize policy, investment and the national decarbonization conversation.
The U.K.'s transition to net zero is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create jobs, rebalance the U.K.'s economy and spur growth. Creating a Net Zero Delivery Authority could be pivotal in helping the U.K. to supercharge its net-zero economy, but the government must act this year if we're to reap its rewards.
Rob Doepel is EY UK and Ireland managing partner for sustainability, based in London. This content represents the views of the author. It was submitted and edited under P&I guidelines but is not a product of P&I's editorial team.