Posted: 15 Mar. 2022 4 min.

Net zero: where politics, priorities and partnerships must come together

Topic: Government & Public Services

History can sometimes pass by with little fanfare. By the time government delegations, campaigners and the media left COP26 in Glasgow last November, some 197 countries had agreed to a new net zero deal. 

No multi-lateral agreement of so many parties will ever be perfect, but the Glasgow Climate Pact secured some serious commitments: more than 140 countries pledged to reach net zero emissions, more than 100 pledged to reverse deforestation and more than 40 pledged to move away from coal as a source of energy. If those pledges are met by 2030, COP26 might come to be seen as a turning point in our planet’s history.

But 2030 is of course just eight years away – and that is the point at which the UN has argued climate change will be irreversible if the world does not act. The good news is that governments across the world are now investing heavily in the green transition of our societies, and they are making progress.

Denmark has already become one of the least carbon-intensive countries in the OECD, around half of Norway’s energy supply is now renewable and Saudi Arabia’s new city at NEOM will be powered by 100 per cent clean energy.

However, public bodies are not the only contributors to climate change, and governments alone cannot deliver on net zero promises. Neither will the market, private actors, businesses and financial institutions. The interplay between all dimensions of the economy – citizens, businesses, and government – is where net zero must happen, and each has a different role to play.

Businesses must invest in their transition and see through the changes that increasingly green-minded customers demand. And citizens need to take part in many ways: they need to hold their governments to account on net zero commitments, they need to demand products and services that support the environment, and they need to accept that change begins with their behaviours.

The government’s role is to adapt regulation, develop partnerships, manage major programmes, roll out subsidy schemes, make approvals for new facilities, deal with funding applications and much more. Net zero needs to be weaved like a thread across everything a government does, and we are seeing that happen.

Interviews with officials for Deloitte UK’s annual The State of the State report found that net zero has become ‘part of the fabric of policymaking’ in the UK government. Governments must provide route maps to net zero and navigate their economies through them.

Ministries of energy, climate and environment, as well as their agencies, will have net zero as part of their core mission – and this creates a resourcing challenge. These critical departments will not be able to deliver the transition to net zero in addition to business-as-usual. In the absence of additional people and budgets, some agencies could struggle with the bandwidth needed to deliver longer-term, net zero initiatives. Backlogs could build up and delays could affect their abilities to reach climate targets.

This is not a cry for resources on behalf of those agencies. But it is an ask of political will. If our governments want to achieve their ambitious climate targets, then our public sector institutions must be given the resources, the capabilities and the tools to play their part. Ultimately, it is political prioritization and a sense of partnership between citizens, government and business that will be needed to deliver a net zero world.

Forfatter spotlight

Carsten Jørgensen

Carsten Jørgensen

Equity Partner

Specializes in the public sector, regulation and deregulation, reforms in the public sector and strategy. Carsten is managing partner for Government & Public Services in NSE (North South Europe). He has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and advisor for the public sector, where he has led several highly complex analyses and larger transformation programs

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