windmill on grass field during golden hour
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

Last week saw the long-awaited launch of the Independent Review of Net Zero conducted by former Science Minister, the Rt. Hon. Chris Skidmore MP. The Independent Review voices a call for the Government to be more ambitious and consistent in its climate policies, so we can decarbonise at the rate required while taking advantage of new green technologies. The Co-operative Party agrees that greater ambition and action is required to meet our Net Zero targets and decarbonise the economy. We believe the next Labour & Co-operative Government will be the vital catalyst for delivering an ambitious Net Zero strategy and agenda. Much more must be done to unleash the power of community groups and co-operatives.

The Independent Review correctly identified the community energy sector as an important sector “neglected by government”. The Review found “community energy projects not only contribute to net zero but are a distilled example of energy security and sovereignty”. The Co-operative Party has been a consistent advocate of the community energy sector and welcomes the recognition of the sector as a vital component in are transition to net zero. We support the Independent Review’s calls for a new Community Energy Strategy and call on the next Labour & Co-operative Government to go further by introducing a new National Community Energy Fund. This new £90m Fund would be a split into a £30 million grant pot and two revolving loan schemes worth £60m – which would continue to assist new community energy projects for years without any additional public spending.

The Independent Review identified the urgent need to boost the energy efficiency of the UK’s homes – stating “homes are at the heart of the net zero equation”. With some of the worst energy efficiency ratings in Europe, the UK wastes a substantial amount of its energy due to poor insulation – contributing to rising energy bills for consumers. The Independent Review recommends the introduction of Net Zero Retrofit Hubs to help tackle the challenge of retrofitting the UK’s housing stock. The Co-operative Party believes retrofit co-operatives provide a perfect ready-made model for delivering a nation-wide retrofitting programme. Retrofit co-operatives already taking action in several parts of the UK, such as Carbon Co-op in Greater Manchester. The co-operative model ensures both workers and communities benefit – by providing a democratic stake in the retrofit organisation. Carbon Co-op is owned and run by its membership of householders, ensuring the retrofit work is done in their interest at a high-quality. We believe this model could be rolled out across the UK’s regions – to ensure we do not repeat the failures of the previous national schemes which used a complex network of contractors which often failed to deliver high-quality, adequate retrofitting to communities.

Achieving Net Zero will require the collective engagement of every sector of the economy and society. The Independent Review identifies the need for systemic change driven by our business community – facilitating decarbonisation with the uptake of new green technologies. The Review states a new green industrial strategy is required to ensure the UK takes advantage of new green industrial opportunities – something the Co-operative Party called for in our Green New Deal paper. The next Labour & Co-operative Government should guarantee a new green industrial strategy provides a plan for the co-operative movement to start up, grow and succeed in low carbon technologies and green industry. This will help expand the co-operative model in all areas of the economy – delivering a fairer economic model to communities across the UK.