UK100 on what Green Day means for local Net Zero delivery - a graphic with a profile photo of Jason Torrance
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Looking back at the Green Day announcements, have Ministers made the best of this test? Have they taken the right path at this critical fork in the road?

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road," sings Billie Joe Armstrong on the Green Day classic Good Riddance, later imploring his protagonist to "make the best of this test." The turning point to which he was alluding in 1997 wasn't — I presume — UK Net Zero policy in 2023. But as the Government decided to borrow the California Bay band's moniker to brand the release of their long-awaited Net Zero strategy update, it seems only right to borrow their lyrics to assess it. 

With "Powering Up Britain" serving as a response to the independent Net Zero Review and the Climate Change Committee's latest report to Parliament while fulfilling a court-mandated requirement to explain how the original Net Zero Strategy would deliver the UK's legally-binding carbon budget, it's fair to say getting it right was going to prove quite a test. But have Ministers made the best of this test?

Welcome to Paradise

First, it's worth highlighting that the UK has been a pioneer. Something it has in common with Green Day. One chose pop-punk, the other Net Zero. The UK was the first major economy to sign Net Zero into law. And, under the UK’s presidency, the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact moved, for the first time, to explicitly recognise the crucial role local leaders play in climate action.

But as the author of the Mission Zero Independent Net Zero Review, Chris Skidmore MP, said recently, with the massive strides taken in the US and EU, the UK's leadership position is in doubt and "everything rests" on the updated strategy — and the Government's response to the urgent recommendations laid out in Mission Zero. And we agree.

UK100 worked with Chris on a Mission Zero report that sought a wide and truly cross-party consensus on the way forward to seize the economic opportunity of the decade, if not this century. As he stated in his initial response to the Government’s Green Day announcement “We cannot keep kicking the can down the road. We do not have 28 years; we have seven years to deliver on the most ambitious nationally determined contribution of a 68% emissions reduction. If the UK achieves that, it is an economic prize that every single country across the world will look to us on how to achieve, and it will deliver further growth”.

Mission Zero concluded that local authorities are the key to unleashing the most successful version of Net Zero — though, as a network of local leaders, we were extremely pleased to see what we have been saying for years echoed back in the Net Zero Review.

On so-called ’Green Day’ then, we hoped to see an updated plan for Net Zero delivery that, reflecting on Mission Zero, understands that local authorities are the key to achieving Net Zero in the UK.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

What Green Day delivered for local Net Zero, however, was a disappointment — much the same as the concept trilogy of albums did for Green Day, the band, back in 2012. 

In our press release, I jumped on the pun bandwagon and said the hopes of local government had been dashed on the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. What I meant was that the "Powering Up Britain" announcements, though voluminous at 44 documents and almost 3,000 pages, fall far short of unlocking the ambition and ability within local government to go further and faster in delivering Net Zero.

Beyond warm words on exploring simplified local Net Zero funding, the plans do not offer any concrete policy shifts on local powers, funding or energy planning. There still appears to be a painful disconnect between world-leading ambition and local delivery that risks the UK becoming a — to dip once more into Green Day’s back catalogue — “Walking Contradiction” of words without action.

Walking Contradiction

Considering how positively Mission Zero was received across the board and how many of its recommendations spoke directly to local Net Zero delivery, one of the best measures to judge the success of the updated plans against is the responses to those recommendations. Specifically, those relating to local authority powers, funding and energy planning. 

Thankfully, among the 44 documents released, there is one detailing the Government's responses to each of the 129 recommendations that comprise Mission Zero.


Mission Zero set out a broad cross-party, sector-wide consensus on a vision of Net Zero in the UK that maximises the economic and wider social benefits — a vision that sees local leaders at the forefront of delivery.

To fulfil it, the new strategy needed to address the complex and disjointed approach to planning and work with regulators, devolved administrations, local authorities, industry and key stakeholders to streamline the permitting processes to ensure new power generation can come online as soon as possible — putting local leaders at the heart of planning local energy systems that harness local generation potential and manage local demand.

In response to the key recommendations on unblocking local energy planning and setting floors for local authority ambition rather than ceilings (#98 and #99), the Government avoided any firm commitments beyond highlighting consultations already running, such as the National Planning Policies Framework (see UK100’s letter to Michael Gove on it), and promising more. At the same time, the Government refused to update the energy regulator Ofgem’s remit to reflect the UK’s Net Zero target, per recommendation #20.

It's not a refusal to act, per se, but it certainly seems like a refusal to acknowledge the urgency with which the system needs to change. We can't keep "Waiting" to ensure the UK's energy infrastructure and planning regime is fit for the future — the future is now.


Power and powers are central to local authority ability to deliver local Net Zero effectively and efficiently. And the Spring Budget devolution announcements on trailblazer deals in Greater Manchester and West Midlands were warmly welcomed. But what Mission Zero called for, specifically, and we supported, is the introduction of a statutory duty for local authorities to take account of the UK’s Net Zero targets (#91)— based on a clear framework of local roles and responsibilities. 

In fact, UK100 has already developed a Local-National Net Zero Delivery Framework to demonstrate how the partnership could work. And we have long called for the Net Zero Strategy to include a National Route Map and a Framework for Local Delivery of Net Zero. 

We need to see it put into action. And UK100 believes that means introducing a Local Net Zero Powers Bill and, as Mission Zero argues, establishing an Office for Net Zero Delivery (#7).

In response, the Government has offered a positive recognition of local leaders and their vital Net Zero role but, as “Jaded” observers have noted, little urgent action to accelerate their ability to deliver. Namely, Ministers have argued against the need for an Office of Net Zero Delivery and celebrated the work of the existing Net Zero Forum — a welcome platform, but one without a statutory footing or accountability.

The Government has also claimed there is no appetite among local government stakeholders for a statutory Net Zero duty, which is not what we have heard from our members. There appears to be a fear that a Net Zero duty would be about imposing new burdens on local authorities when, instead, it is actually about giving local leaders the freedom to choose to prioritise climate action, especially in areas where they are currently constrained.


When it comes to funding, however, there is a need to recognise that local authorities are more stretched than ever in a cost-of-living crisis. But it is not just about more funding. It is about ending the competitive bidding beauty parade — something Mission Zero (#92) and Michael Gove have recognised. This should include consolidating different funding pots, reducing competitive bidding processes, giving longer lead-in times where bidding remains and taking a "Longview" when it comes to funding — rather than a relentless focus on the short-term.

Research has shown that local authorities have spent between £27 million and £63 million since 2019 on applying for competitive funding pots — that's money they can't spend on delivery. 

Therefore, the Government's promise to "explore simplifying local net zero funding where this provides the best results for Net Zero" is what all local leaders want to hear. But what they want to see is that put into action — and urgently.

Time grabs you by the wrist

Looking back at the Green Day announcements, have Ministers made the best of this test? Have they taken the right path at this critical fork in the road? 

As details continue to emerge and we wait to see whether promises made will be fulfilled, it feels too pessimistic to simply argue that the Government has failed the Net Zero test. But, equally, with a dearth of concrete action promised on local delivery, it's hard to be too optimistic.

What we can say for sure is that, as in the song "Good Riddance", "time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go" and, with the stark warnings from the IPCC still fresh, the limited time we have is directing us, with the utmost urgency, to finally turn warm words on local Net Zero into action.