A third of the UK’s emissions cuts must come from changing people’s behaviour, a House of Lords Committee said.
A report released Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Environment and Climate Change urged ministers to lead a public campaign and use regulations and taxes to guide public behavior change in order to halt nature’s degradation and reach legally binding zero-sum targets.
The report said the public sought leadership from the government to guide and inform them on how to play their part in tackling the climate crisis and environmental damage. But the Conservative government has been dominated by the mantra of “walking with an atom of consumer choice” and freedom of choice, she cautioned, setting the condition Reduce UK emissions to net zero by 2050 in danger.
Peers have said that a third of the cuts needed to meet interim targets of cutting emissions of 78% in 13 years must come from people changing the way they travel, what they eat and how they heat their homes.
But they cautioned that the government’s inappropriate approach to enabling public behavior change threatens the country’s failure to achieve net-zero targets.
“The prime minister urgently needs to define her vision for a country where low-carbon choices and behaviors can thrive,” said Lady Parmenter, chair of the committee. “distance summer record temperaturesfires, and hose bans, it has never been more clear that the twin crises of climate change and nature loss require an immediate and sustainable response.
Polls show that 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.”
Instead of guiding the public with advice on how to change their behavior, the government has been relying on as-yet-unproven technological solutions for global heating; Giving evidence to the commission, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said: “Dreaming of something new emerging and saving us by 2050 is not very reasonable.”
the reportIn Our Hands, Changing Behavior for Climate and Environmental Goals said: “We cannot rely on large-scale and unproven technologies alone to achieve the transition to net zero.
“Changing behavior across the entire population is essential to achieving net zero and minimizing environmental damage. Government policy and engagement is critical to achieving this level of change, which will result in many other benefits to health and well-being. Behavior change is also needed.”
The magnitude of the behavioral change required and its impact on reaching net zero are outlined in a peer-reviewed guide from Dr Victoria Speicher and Professor Christina Liston Bandera from the University of Leeds. They said the average household carbon footprint in the UK is 8.5 tons of CO22 per year compared to 2.5 tons per year to be consistent with emissions reduction targets until 2030 and 0.7 tons of carbon dioxide2 year to achieve the net zero target by 2050.
The report said the government was in a unique position to guide the public in changing their behaviour, but that its approach was insufficient in the face of the urgent scale of the environmental challenge.
The committee calls on the government to launch a public engagement campaign to build support to help people adopt new technologies and reduce carbon-intensive consumption in key areas that require behavioral change.
Peers said one of the lessons from the COVID pandemic is how important clear communication is in building public consensus for national action. They are also asking ministers to use every available lever, from regulations, incentives and financial disincentives, to persuade people to change their behaviour.
Low-income families should be provided with financial support as part of a national campaign to improve energy efficiency in homes in an equitable manner. “The power of people is essential to achieving our environmental goals, but unless we are encouraged and empowered to change behaviors in the way we travel, what we eat and buy and how we heat our homes, we will not achieve those goals,” Parmenter said.
The report said the government needs to provide a positive vision and a clear narrative on how the public can help achieve climate and environmental goals, and lead by example. But its climate and environmental policies, including the issue of behavior change, lack transparency and clarity. It included “disruption of groups” that had no clear terms of reference and were vague.