Lords urge ministers to encourage behaviour change to meet net zero

18th October 2022


Web group lifting up net zero globe credit i Stock 1381963388 1 1

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IEMA

People power will be crucial to meeting the government’s net-zero targets, according to the House of Lords, with nearly a third of emissions reductions up to 2035 requiring individuals and households to adopt low-carbon products and services while cutting consumption.

A major report by the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, In our hands: behaviour change and climate and environmental goals, says meeting legally binding targets will involve people changing their behaviour. It says that while the government has introduced policies to help people adopt new technologies, such as electric cars, these have not been replicated in other policy areas, noting “a reluctance” to help people to cut carbon-intensive consumption.

“Time is not on our side, and there is too great a reliance on as yet undeveloped technologies to get us to net zero,” the publication argues. However, it also claims that “the public is ready for leadership from the government in this space”, with people wanting to know how to play their part in tackling climate change and environmental damage.

The government is “in a unique position to guide the public in changing their behaviours”, it continues, and should provide clarity to individuals “about the changes we need to make, in how we travel, what we eat and buy, and how we use energy at home, and should articulate the many co-benefits to health and wellbeing of taking those steps”.

The committee calls on ministers to launch a public engagement strategy to communicate a national narrative and build support for getting to net zero. Behavioural science evidence and best practice show that a combination of policy levers, including regulation and fiscal incentives, must be used alongside clear communication to overcome any barriers to making low-carbon choices.

“A behavioural lens must be applied consistently across all government departments, as too many policies, from planning and building standards to advertising regulations, are still encouraging high carbon and low nature choices,” it says.

With the country facing a cost-of-living crisis, the government must tailor interventions to avoid burdening those who can least afford it. Ministers must also work with groups and organisations across society who have a critical role in securing behaviour change for climate change and the environment. Businesses can enable behaviour change by increasing the affordability and availability of greener products and services, but need direction from government if they are to act against their immediate financial interests.

The report states that lessons can be learned from interventions in other policy areas, most notably widespread behaviour change during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the changes demanded by the pandemic were seen as a short-term response to a short-term emergency, “it will be a major missed opportunity if the government does not seize the chance to evaluate behaviour change interventions implemented during the pandemic and apply lessons learned”, the committee says

Image credit | iStock

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