11th September 2020
In a bid to kick start the decision-making process, Climate Assembly UK brought together more than 100 randomly selected members of the public to take part in the first climate assembly.
Lasting over five months, the assembly’s final report was released on the 10th Sept and includes recommendations across a broad range of sectors, from meat-eating and retail, through to how we should heat our homes and air travel.
Although Covid-19 wasn’t originally on the assembly’s agenda it quickly became a talking point as the pandemic took hold across the globe. When asked about its impact, more than half of the members agreed that recovering from Covid-19 should be used as an opportunity to hit net zero carbon emissions and drive different lifestyles to reach the 2050 net zero target, which was signed into law last year.
These steps should include limits or conditions on investment in high carbon industries, and for the government to encourage lifestyles to become more compatible with reaching net zero.
On housing, which is responsible for 15% of the UK’s emissions, assembly members were asked to consider two key topics, zero carbon heating and retrofitting.
Members showed strong support for hydrogen, heat pumps and heat networks as part of the solution to decarbonising homes and supported a ban on the sale of new gas boilers from 2030 or 2035. When it came to retrofitting, they were keen for properties to be upgraded all in one go, rather than gradually over a number of years, but that solutions should be tailored on a local level and personal choice was still highly valued.
How we generate our future energy will be a key driver for us reaching our net zero targets. The assembly were asked to deliberate on six main ways in which we could generate electricity in the future. The large majority strongly agreed or agreed that they preferred offshore wind, solar power and onshore wind as solutions to generating electricity. However, they were much less supportive of bioenergy, nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.
Personal transport, which includes travel for work, pleasure and everyday activities, transport accounts for 15% of the UK’s total emissions. Looking at a range of possible policies, a majority of assembly members backed a number of measures.
The most-supported policy options were government investment in low-carbon public transport, quickly stopping selling the most polluting vehicles, and adding new bus routes and more frequent services, the report says. The assembly also agreed that they would supports grants to help people buy low carbon cars and a reduction by 2-5% of how much we all use of cars should be encouraged.
The assembly discussed a wide variety of topics and these are just some of the further recommendations they made:
Overall, it was clear across all the recommendations that education and information will be vital to progress and the steps needed to be addressed were for individuals, business and government collectively.
Freedom of choice and localised solutions to the problems were also widely encouraged, as was making sure any measures were applied fairly across society, including people with different incomes, travel preferences and housing arrangements.
The next step is now for the government to respond to the report, which MPs have asked to happen before the end of the year. So is the assembly members commitment to sustainability mirrored across the population as a whole? It certainly looks like a clear message to businesses in all sectors to develop clear and actionable sustainability plans that respond to the changing expectations of consumers and key stakeholders alike.