Background to the report

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our generation. The UK government and the devolved governments must act collectively to meet their objective of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the UK to ‘net zero’ by 2050. The powers needed to do this sit with the UK government (reserved powers) and the governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (devolved powers). In looking across the UK, we have identified four key themes.

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Scope of the report

This report is a joint piece of work between the public audit offices of the four UK nations – Audit Scotland, Audit Wales, National Audit Office and Northern Ireland Audit Office – and has been produced with engagement from each respective government or administration. It sets out the UK and devolved governments’ legislation, policy, strategy, governance and monitoring arrangements, relevant to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

This work has several aims:

  • To set out how the responsibilities and powers for achieving the net zero target are split between the UK government and each of the devolved governments.
  • To provide insight and stimulate public discussion on each UK nation’s overall approach to achieving net zero.
  • To support the scrutiny of governments’ arrangements to achieve net zero.
  • To lay the foundations for potential further work on climate change by the UK’s public audit offices.

Key Themes

  • The four nations have different emissions profiles and varied approaches to achieving net zero, but the choices they make must ultimately deliver net zero at the UK level.
  • Given the different net zero targets, carbon budgets and policies across the nations, there will be opportunities for the governments to learn from each other.
  • Achieving net zero in any one nation depends on UK-level action, and vice versa.
  • Effective working relationships and close engagement between the UK and devolved governments will be vital to achieving the overall aim of net zero.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (15 Sep 2023)

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