Skip to main content

Climate Change Committee: Carbon Budget Report

Volume 811: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Climate Change Committee Sixth Carbon Budget report, published on 9 December 2020, what plans they have (1) to engage the public on, and (2) to ensure the behaviour changes included in, the recommendations of that report.

My Lords, we are engaging the public on the challenge of net zero through regular dialogues, consultations and online advice services. In 2020, we launched the brand Together for Our Planet, with a dedicated website, stakeholder engagement and a push across government digital channels. We are also developing policies to support people to make greener lifestyle choices, such as buying an electric vehicle or insulating their home, which will form part of the upcoming sectoral decarbonisation plans.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, but I am sure he will agree that we need more than a website. Four months ago, the Minister assured the House that a dedicated engagement team was up and running and working on how COP 26 could be utilised to best affect behaviour change. So far, the only civic society engagement is an art competition for under-16s and a hashtag. Assuming that that is not the extent of the campaign, can the Minister say when the behaviour change part will be launched, what areas it will cover and who is leading on it? Speed is of the essence.

Throughout 2020, we held deliberative dialogues with the public on transport and heat decarbonisation, the environment, the future of food, carbon capture, usage and storage, and our transition to net zero. I can assure the noble Baroness that, in the run-up to COP 26, we will be working closely with businesses, civil society groups, schools and others.

My Lords, at local and national levels, in communities across the country, the Church of England is committed to reducing net carbon emissions to zero by 2030. Can the Minister say a bit more about the plans Her Majesty’s Government have to offer practical support for local communities already committed to transformation, using new, low-carbon technologies to achieve net-zero emissions?

The right reverend Prelate makes some good points. A BEIS-supported parish council carbon calculator has just been launched to support local communities to develop their own plans for tackling emissions locally. Once they have developed a plan, the Rural Community Energy Fund is available to support the development of net-zero energy projects.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the advice he mentioned in his reply to the original Question needs to pass the “three Cs” test and be clear, concise and consistent? Does he agree that the handling of the Cumbrian coal mine is an example of where the three Cs test was failed on all accounts?

My noble friend will realise that there is a limit to the amount I can say on this. The planning application was called in by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 11 March.

My Lords, in November, I asked a supplementary question, and the Minister said that

“all campaign spend will be released in line with the usual Cabinet Office spend data publications.”—[Official Report, 18/11/20; col. 1415.]

This was in relation to what we are spending on engagement for COP. I have had a look, and I cannot see anything related to COP 26 engagement since then. Can the Minister please be clear about whether or not the Government actually plan to spend money on public engagement to drive behaviour change? If so, what is the budget? As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, this is a crucial and urgent issue. If the Minister does not have the figures to hand, could he please write to me and place a copy in the Library?

I agree with the noble Baroness that this is crucial work, and, as I said, the figures will be released in due course. If there is any further information I can release at the moment, I will of course write to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, the message from the Sixth Carbon Budget report is important but complicated. We need to take people with us if we are going to succeed. The message needs to be clearer and simpler. Will the Government use the resources at their disposal to re-present the case, so that it can be understood by the ordinary person and not only the expert?

I agree with the noble Lord that we need to engage not only experts or early movers in this technology but the public as a whole. He makes some good points, and we will engage the full resources of Government to make sure that this message gets across.

My Lords, I chair Pendle council’s climate emergency working group. An additional 100 pages, as part of this huge document, are about local authorities:

“For local authorities, this does not entail focused emissions cuts”—

this is government policy—

“in separate sectors, but means transforming whole places towards Net Zero, working with residents, communities and businesses to deliver the right changes and investments for the area.”

That seems fairly obvious to some of us, but the report says that

“there is no overall plan for how local authorities fit into delivering Net Zero.”

Will the Government devote more attention to the need to bring local authorities together in this vital work?

The noble Lord makes some good points. Local government is indeed a key partner in delivering net zero, and this Government are supporting it with a range of funding streams covering key decarbonisation areas such as transport and building. Local government bodies are, of course, key to leading transition in their areas, leading by example on their own estates, and supporting and enabling others to follow their campaigns.

My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that, since we are asking for long-term, fundamental and voluntary changes in behaviour, we should do that on the basis of trust and openness? Will the Government investigate the potential for setting up a repository of the best available data and research, so that individuals can easily establish, for instance, how much they are helping by adopting a vegan diet and how on earth it is possible for the local council to say that it is recycling when it is mashing up broken glass with our newspapers?

I certainly agree with the first part of my noble friend’s question about the need for trust and openness. The Government are currently examining how best to support the public in making green choices and adopting sustainable behaviours. This includes identifying information that people need and how it can best be communicated, and providing it in an accessible format.

My Lords, one year into the pandemic, what lessons have the Government learned to encourage behavioural change in relation to net zero, given that the Public Accounts Committee reports this month that the

“Government has not yet properly engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that achieving net zero will require”,

via co-ordinated, cross-department, consistent messaging?

It is important that we get cross-departmental working going correctly. Obviously, the pandemic has resulted in some challenges in this area, but we are devoting considerable attention across government committees, and different departments are engaging with each other to try to get that message across. I agree with the noble Lord that there needs to be consistent messaging, and we need to get all of government focused on this effort.

My Lords, to get to net zero we need to encourage people to switch from cars to walking and cycling for local journeys. In this context, how does the average investment in local infrastructure in the UK to support this transition compare with places such as Copenhagen, where this has been done successfully, with about 50% of journeys on foot or bike? Secondly, my local authority, Oxfordshire County Council, is proposing changes that will increase car traffic in residential urban side streets and therefore discourage walking and cycling. How will the Government respond to this?

I am not aware of the specific changes proposed in Oxfordshire—I will certainly have a look at that—but there is a walking and cycling strategy. The Government have devoted considerable resources through the Department for Transport to encouraging both those modes of transport.

My Lords, the Sixth Carbon Budget report includes options for reducing emissions in the aviation sector. Can my noble friend the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to encourage sustainable aviation fuels, the development and take-up of which would not only reduce emissions but would support and create new green-collar jobs across the country?

My noble friend makes some very good points. As we were both aviation Ministers, I am delighted to tell her that today we launch the Green Fuels, Green Skies competition, which will provide up to £15 million in funding for the early-stage development of first-of-a-kind, large-scale sustainable aviation fuel projects in the UK.

I refer noble Lords to my interests in relation to sustainable development and low-carbon heat. Does the Minister agree that the switch from coal to gas was successful primarily because it was made easy and simple for households to make the switch by connecting to the infrastructure that was put into the great majority of streets in the UK? Is there more that the Government could do to support low-carbon networked heat solutions to make it similarly easy for people to connect and go low-carbon?

The noble Lord makes some very good points. Networked heat will be one of a number of different contributions that we will need to make to encourage transition to low or no-carbon heating. A number of different options are available, supported through a range of government incentive schemes.