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  • by Trevor Loveday

Net zero policy will fail due to "inadequate" moves to enlist people power, Lords warn

A third of emission savings by 2035 must come from people changing their behaviours but the government's current approach to enabling behaviour change is seriously inadequate according to Lords.

The House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee forecast that existing government policy on changing consumers’ behaviour “will result in the UK failing to meet its net zero and environment targets.”

It further warned: “The government’s reluctance to reduce freedom of choice means we are not making the progress at the speed we need.”

The committee said that while there are policies to help people adopt new technologies like electric cars they not been replicated in other areas. “There is too great a reliance on as yet undeveloped technologies to get us to net zero and a reluctance to help people cut carbon-intensive consumption,” the committee as counselled.

In its report: Mobilising action on climate change and environment: behaviour change, the committee has called on the government to “use every lever they have – including regulations and fiscal incentives and disincentives – to address the barriers which prevent changing behaviours.”

It urged government also to:

  • learn from instances such as the Covid outbreak, where it enabled people to make the necessary shifts in how we travel, what we eat and buy and how we use energy at home;

  • launch a public engagement campaign to build support for helping people adopt new technologies and reduce carbon-intensive consumption in key areas where behaviour change is required;

  • help the public to reduce carbon- and resource-intensive consumption in diets, products, services and travel;

  • use the Net Zero Forum, announced in October 2021, to address the coordination, resourcing and responsibilities between local and central government, recognising the key role of local authorities in helping enable behaviour change in local communities; and

  • place fairness at the heart of policy design and tailor behaviour change interventions to avoid placing a burden on those who can least afford it. For example, providing financing support for low-income households as part of a national drive to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.

Chair of the committee, Baroness Parminter, said:

“It has never been more apparent that the twin crises of climate change and nature loss demand an immediate and sustained response.

"People power is critical to reach our environmental goals, but unless we are encouraged and enabled to change behaviours in how we travel, what we eat and buy and how we heat our homes, we won’t meet those targets. Polling shows the public is ready for leadership from the Government. People want to know how to play their part in tackling climate change and environmental damage.

"The government’s mantra of 'going with the grain of consumer choice' demonstrates a reluctance to help people cut carbon-intensive consumption. It is in a unique position to guide the public in changing their behaviours, however their approach is inadequate in the face of the urgent scale of the environmental challenge.

'The Prime Minister urgently needs to set out her vision of a country where low carbon choices and behaviours can flourish.”


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