Net Zero target at risk without a ‘substantial and sustainable’ change in corporate and public behaviour, says report

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The current social environment is ‘not conducive’ to the behaviour change needed for UK’s Net-Zero target, according to a new report by the Energy Research Partnership.

Titled ‘How behaviour change will unlock Net Zero’, the report suggests that a key barrier to cutting carbon emissions is the significant changes in behaviour required, with both the public and by businesses needing solutions to enable ‘capability, motivation and opportunity’ to reduce carbon emissions.

Key findings of the report include:

  • When considering substantial changes which will affect people’s daily lives – policy makers, service providers and manufacturers must consider public acceptance and realistic timeframes for people to change behaviour and accept the ‘new normal.’
  • UK businesses must service changes in market demand caused by behaviour change within the UK population to ensure there is not a relapse to carbon-emitting lifestyles due to lack of availability.
  • Policy-driven behaviour change must be preceded with plans that enable behaviour change for business and the general public to move towards a low-carbon lifestyle.

Conclusions of the report include:

  • ‘Social contagion’ is evidenced in a range of energy-related behaviours – including SUV sales, excessive calorie intake, solar-PV adoption, and electricity conservation.
  • More supportive social environments with ‘visible positive behaviours’ can trigger people to make low-carbon choices and counteract these ‘behavioural externalities’ that influence others to act in ways that prevent carbon reduction.
  • Data and digital tools – have ‘great potential’ to reduce barriers and accelerate system change. This includes adoption of smart tariffs and other smart technologies through smarter digital comparison tools, leveraging data on savings and satisfaction from early adopters of low-carbon heating solutions and supporting shifts to ‘more sustainable and healthy diets’ through better collection of food-carbon data and personalised feedback on shopping habits.

The full report can be downloaded from the Energy Research Partnership website.