Net zero transition must be fair, says new report

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Photo by James Newcombe on Unsplash

The Government should follow the principles set out by Climate Assembly UK and ensure fairness underpins net zero transition, according to a new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee report.

Titled, ‘Climate Assembly UK: where are we now?’, the report makes a series of recommendations to Government on public engagement and education, on deliberative democracy, and on the net zero transition to capitalise on the work of Climate Assembly UK (CAUK).

CAUK was the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on climate change and examined potential pathways to achieve the Government’s net zero target to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The report urges the Government to come forward with the Net Zero Review as a matter of priority, and to do so along with the Net Zero Strategy, to ensure there is ‘genuine consultation and engagement’ with the public, businesses and industry to drive forward efforts to decarbonise.

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, commented: “Climate Assembly UK brought together 108 citizens over multiple weekends to agree a series of recommendations to Government, as Ministers start to set out how our net zero target will be implemented.

“At the heart of the CAUK proposals were the principles of public engagement and fairness, but Ministers have so far failed to engage the public on any of the big changes we expect to see in the years ahead.

“Whether it’s decarbonising heating in our homes, reducing our emissions from transport or dealing with changes in the workplace, we know the net zero transition will soon become a lived experience in every home across the country.

“There is a great opportunity to make the net-zero transition a positive experience. But the Government’s failure to engage the public means we risk people viewing the net-zero transition in a negative light and perceiving policy measures as being imposed.

“I hope the Government will take heed of our report, formally accept the CAUK proposals as a basis to engage the wider public, and not miss the opportunity of hosting COP26 to energise and motivate the British people about the net zero opportunities ahead of us.”

The report finds the Government’s public engagement initiatives to date ‘insufficient’, though welcome.

The report notes the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the Public Accounts Committee have both recently found that the Government’s progress on public engagement has been ‘inadequate.’

The report endorses the CCC’s call for the Government to publish a net zero Public Engagement Strategy, and to do so alongside the Net Zero Review, and recommends this includes detailed plans for education and engagement, which are based on the conclusions of the CAUK report.

The report also recommends the Government, in its Net Zero Strategy, sets out its plans for deliberative engagement on net zero policies through citizens assemblies, citizens juries and other methods.

The report also notes that the Government has not yet fully responded to the Climate Assembly UK report and calls on them to publish ‘a comprehensive, point-by-point response.’

Cross -departmental co-ordination will be the focus of the BEIS Committee’s new inquiry into net zero governance.