Post-COP, Peers explore solutions to make net zero a reality
In early March, Peers for the Planet peers contributed to a Beyond COP26 roundtable series exploring practical ideas and solutions to deliver net zero. The discussions brought together parliamentarians, local leaders, business and other stakeholders to consider five themes: place, people, nature, innovation, and the economy. Following the roundtables, a Call-to-Action report was published, including articles from Peers for the Planet Co-Chair, Baroness Helene Hayman on enabling and empowering behaviour change (reproduced below), and Peers for the Planet member and Chair of the Lords Environment Committee, Baroness Parminter on harnessing the potential of nature-based solutions (which can be read here).
Behaviour change is crucial but not just about individuals
The last two years have seen profound and rapid change in the way we live our lives on a scale unknown except in wartime. The pandemic disrupted the way we worked, travelled, shopped, educated our children, cared for our elderly, celebrated and grieved. The climate emergency we face, as the IPCC report earlier this month made clear, is going to require equally fundamental, though different, systemic and behavioural change.
Numerous reports suggest that the public recognises the scale of the problem, the urgent need for action and the implications for their own lives. But the evidence also suggests a disconnect between public concern and public understanding of the most effective, practical steps to take. We need policymakers to lead and to direct the means and the assets they have to, in the words of the Net Zero Strategy, “empower business and the public”.
There are real obstacles when taking a train is more expensive than a plane, when electric vehicles lack infrastructure to support them, when people are justifiably concerned heat pumps won’t provide the energy they need because of the state of our housing stock.
So, how do we build on the social capital that exists and the desire of individuals to
contribute to the fight against climate disaster? It starts, like most things, with education
and reliable information – a recurring theme in advice from experts as well as in the
discussion of the Citizens Climate Assembly. Information must be user-friendly, inclusive and trusted.
And win-wins always help. The ability to walk your child to school through a clean, green,
safe neighbourhood reduces travel costs, improves well-being and connects communities. Energy efficient homes mean lower household bills, warmer homes, fewer repairs and better health. Tackling the climate crisis is intimidating, but not doing so presents a bleak future and will cost us more in the long-term (as both the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Climate Change Committee have reported).
Crucially the onus must not just be on the individual. Government and business must create the conditions in which green choices make sense financially, are more accessible and convenient. That requires an ecosystem of investment, incentives, nudges, regulations and penalties, not just for individuals, but for transport providers, food producers, the construction industry and of course energy providers, among others. How we are taxed, how we are taught, our skills framework and pricing structures will need to play their part.
The government needs to look at all its policies and initiatives in light of how they enable
and empower citizens and businesses to make greener choices. If ever there was a need for cross-governmental action, it’s on the climate and nature emergencies we face. For citizens effectively to play their part to avoid irreversible damage to our planet, we need a
comprehensive, government-led strategy on behaviour change that joins the many different dots.
And back to the pandemic, the rainbow became a symbol of our willingness to act together. Perhaps we need a ‘green star’ equivalent for climate action.