Consultation on Net Zero Governance

Mohr, A.; Röder, M.

Question 1. What are the key requirements for a governance structure that can deliver cross-Government climate action at the pace, scale and over the duration required to meet the carbon budgets and the 2050 net zero target?

a) Are the Government’s existing net zero governance structures effective in this role, both in terms of coordination across Whitehall, and coordination with the devolved administrations and local and regional authorities?

  • Governance refers to the structures, processes, rules and traditions that determine how people in societies make decisions and share power, exercise responsibility and ensure accountability (Cundill & Fabricius, 2010). This includes multiple possible modes of policy and decision making (e.g., hierarchical, market, network), and multiple possible actors (e.g., government, industry, research, civil society) across multiple levels (e.g., international, national, regional, local).
  • Delivering cross-Government climate action at the pace and scale needed to meet ambitious carbon budgets and net zero targets will require societal support and action at multiple levels, including individual and community, or net zero risks being an unrealised ambition and the policy gap noted by the CCC in its 2021 Progress Report to Parliament will not be bridged. However, the scale of the climate change challenge and of the action required for net zero is often perceived as an intangible, distant problem beyond the control of the individual.
  • To bridge the net zero policy gap noted by the CCC, successful policy implementation will be reliant on addressing societal views and actions that are often context specific to do with scale (spatial and temporal), community values and priorities, perceptions of trust and equity (winners/losers), risks and benefits and the human dimension (who has a stake, when in the process, and to what end). Understanding of the specific context, local values and priorities, implementing fair processes and developing trust is best achieved through governance at the local and regional level through interactions and relationship building between local governance and supply chain actors and community members. Building equity into processes of systemic change requires instituting strong mechanisms that generate public benefits (Siddharth & Haarstad, 2020)
  • A transition of this pace and scale needs to be led by government as we cannot expect individuals and households to switch away from fossil fuels without clear policy support. But individual and community action will require support through governance processes at the level of local and regional authorities. Effective coordination across Whitehall and with devolved administrations and local and regional authorities requires that attention be paid to the dynamic interrelationship between national government and local and regional authorities. Accelerating the speed and scale of implementation for distributed low carbon energy systems and enhancing their positive sustainability impacts, especially for the energy poor for whom sustainable energy is often not affordable, reliable or accessible (Mohr, 2018), is directly linked to the quality of local and national governance structures and their dynamic interrelationships. A key barrier to effective local/regional governance is a lack of devolved resources, and skilled and knowledgeable staff to help promote, implement and monitor local/regional low carbon energy systems, activities and practices.
  • Working with communities is typically expected to better embed individual behaviour change, as well as generate social innovations and facilitate the consensual deployment of sustainable energy technologies (Walker 2011). The direct involvement of communities contributes to the successful implementation and social embedding of various forms of carbon reduction activity and practices (Mohr & Raman, 2013), including the use of low carbon technologies, the adoption of energy efficiency and conservation measures, shifts in consumption practices and in patterns of mobility (Walker, 2011).
  • Devolved community carbon governance processes can help avoid the resistance and protest that remote governance structures or private development schemes can produce (Wustenhagen et al., 2007) because they tend to be more locally appropriate, more inclusive of local people and priorities and more locally beneficial (Rogers et al., 2008).

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