A few weeks ago I wrote about my involvement with Climate Assembly UK. The assembly was set up by six House of Commons Committees, including the Treasury Select Committee (which I chair), and comprised over 100 members of the public, selected as representative of our population including in attitude to climate change. Over six weekends they heard evidence from leading scientists about how climate change is affecting us and what might be done to hit the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 set by the Government in 2019 (the UK becoming the first major economy to legislate for that goal). Since I wrote that article, their final report has been published and I thought the issue was worth revisiting.
Much of the attention climate change receives in the media focuses on more radical elements around this issue. We see Extinction Rebellion activists scrawling graffiti over Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square and blocking the delivery of newspapers and we also see some on the other side who do not believe that climate change is happening at all. Most of us, I think are in the reasonable middle – recognising the significant progress we are making (UK gas emissions have fallen from 600.9 MtCO2e in 2010 to 435.2 MtCO2e in 2019) but also that a great deal more needs to be done.
The report by Climate Assembly UK gives us a better understanding of the measures that the public are likely to support. The full text (which makes more than 50 recommendations) is available at www.climateassembly.uk/report. It includes action on:
- Transport – recommending a shift to electric vehicles, limiting air passenger growth and increasing taxes as people fly more and fly further.
- Housing - recommending various steps to reduce heat and energy use through retrofits and zero carbon heating.
- Farming - recommending greater reliance on local produce and local food production, a voluntary change in diet to reduce meat and dairy consumption supported by education and incentives, and a “managed diversity” of land use.
- Recycling – recommending clearer labelling to aid product choice, individuals repairing and sharing more, and a drive to increase recycling rates further.
- Energy - recommending that offshore wind, onshore wind and solar power should be the main mean for generating electricity.
- Carbon capture - recommending measures to reduce greenhouse gases through the restoration and management of forests, peatlands and wetlands.
Across the recommendations four key themes are consistent:
- Improved information and education on climate change.
- Fairness, including across sectors, geographies, incomes and health.
- Freedom and choice for individuals and local areas.
- Strong leadership from government.
The report is a very interesting read. It is ambitious, reflecting the seriousness of the challenge we face, follows the best available science and puts forward options which are generally realistic and that I believe the wider public can get on board with.