Library image, photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

Transforming UK Government energy and resources policy

19 December, 2020

Transforming UK Government energy and resources policy

John Barrett

Clare Downing

Aimee K Eeles

Case study   Materials & Products

John Barrett, Clare Downing and Aimee Eeles

The UK Government has developed a Resource and Waste Strategy to reduce the impact of UK consumption. The CREDS Materials & Products theme, based at the University of Leeds, has developed a long-standing relationship with the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that has directly influenced how they monitor the impact of material use in the UK. The research has provided evidence for the UK Government to establish a legally binding target to double resource productivity in the UK.

Our focus on exploring industry emissions from a consumption-based, emissions perspective has fundamentally changed the methods of Government reporting, our understanding of progress and the policy options available to deliver global reductions in energy demand and GHG emissions. Added to this, our analysis of resource efficiency has provided key insights into an under-explored area of Government policy.

We have provided support on a weekly basis to Defra, DESNZ, the Cabinet Office, the Treasury and the Climate Change Committee using our MRIO model, which is being continually developed using CREDS funding. In addition, this approach has been adopted by HM Treasury to analyse the distributional impacts of carbon footprints in their interim report of their Net-Zero Review. We are now using our MRIO model to work with the Industrial Decarbonisation in DESNZ to assess a range of resource efficiency strategies across eight key sectors in the UK.

We have formed a cross-Governmental group to discuss monitoring energy/resources and economic implications, policy assessment and analysis and the interrelationship between all these issues that sit across a number of Government departments. The group includes Defra, DESNZ, ONS and Innovate UK. It is now administered by Defra and meets on a monthly basis. The University of Leeds is the only academic organisation in the group to focus on how our research can be applied across all the departments.

We provide underlying headline indicators for the UK and Scottish Governments. Through CREDS funding, the University of Leeds is now the official provider to the UK Government for two of their headline indicators, namely the UK’s consumption-based GHG emissions and resource productivity metric.

Professor John Barrett was also invited to join the Waste Targets Expert Group administered by Defra to provide independent expertise on the setting of targets in the area of Resource Efficiency and Waste Reduction as specified in the Environment Bill.

Future plans

The team at Leeds will continue to build these important relationships in the future. Most notably, a newly-formed relationship with the Industrial Decarbonisation team in DESNZwill expand our existing networks and ensure that our research maintains its significant impact on UK Government industrial energy and resource efficiency policy.

Sources of information


Evidence and policy teams in Defra have very much welcomed this collaboration as your team’s work has helped shape the resource agenda by providing three very valuable indicators – carbon footprint (consumption-based emissions), material footprint (in raw material equivalents) and resource productivity. Carbon footprint is a new indicator and the material footprint and resource productivity are improved indicators compared to what was previously available which was much older data based on less refined methodology. With carbon footprint, changing the carbon accounting approach to consider the broader capture of carbon, including emissions embedded in imports has informed policymakers of the importance of embedded emissions and of thinking beyond territorial domestic emissions. Defra

Publication details

Barrett, J., Downing, C. and Eeles, A.K. 2020. Transforming UK Government energy and resources policy. Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions. Oxford, UK. CREDS case study.

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash