Up to a third of the emissions savings needed by 2035 for the UK to meet its environmental targets must come from people changing their behaviours, the House of Lords has found.
In a report published today, the House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee also warns that the government's approach to enabling behaviour change is “seriously inadequate” and will result in the UK failing to meet its net-zero target.
There is “too great a reliance” on undeveloped technologies to get to net zero and a reluctance to help people cut carbon-intensive consumption, the report adds.
It calls on ministers to launch a public engagement campaign to build support for helping people adopt new technologies and reduce consumption, learning from examples of how this was achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baroness Parminter, chair of Committee, said: “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.
She continued: “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 report suggests that the government’s “reluctance to reduce freedom of choice” is hindering efforts to deliver net zero, and that people need help cutting carbon and resource-intensive consumption in diets, products, services and travel.
It urges ministers to use “every lever they have” – including regulations and fiscal incentives and disincentives – to address barriers to behavioural change, and to use the Net Zero Forum to address coordination between local and central government.
Crucially, the report also states that the government must 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.
“The government’s mantra of ‘going with the grain of consumer choice’ demonstrates a reluctance to help people cut carbon-intensive consumption,” Baroness Parminter said.
“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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