Skip to main content

Behaviour Change for Net Zero

Volume 820: debated on Thursday 31 March 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why they disbanded the Behaviour Change for Net Zero working group; and what they have replaced it with.

The group was created to discuss potential policies and proposals to be included in the Net Zero Strategy. Given that the strategy was published last year, we are now focused on delivering its commitments and have well-established net-zero structures across government to do so.

I thank the Minister for his reply, but in evidence given to the Environment and Climate Change Committee, on which I serve, Simon Baugh, the director of government communication, said that the Government considered that their Together for our Planet campaign launched in 2020 was a “success” and were now

“developing and testing a strategy for climate change communications”.

I had barely heard of the Together for our Planet campaign, even though I work in this area, and I guess that many noble Lords have not heard of it either. On what basis do the Government consider it a success? What are the new strategies and when will they be launched? Will it be this year?

The noble Baroness makes an important point. I think that the campaign was a success, but it is important that we take the public with us on this journey. We think that the better approach is to support people in making the green choices that we all want to see them make. We have a range of support measures across government to help them to do this.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister agrees with me that we must invest at scale in renewable energy, going further and faster. If he does, will he set out for the House a bit more these new initiatives and ways forward? We have had the committee that has been disbanded, so what are these new initiatives that we need to know about?

As we said before, we already have considerable investment in renewables, and there will be a forthcoming energy security strategy in the near future, which will expand on some of those commitments. The noble Lord will be aware that we already have one of the largest offshore wind industries in the world, and extremely ambitious plans for scaling up offshore wind, hydrogen, solar and other forms of renewable energy. We want to continue that.

My Lords, the Welsh are shortly to consult on a behaviour change engagement strategy, and the Scottish already have one. So what plans do our Government have to publish a behaviour change engagement strategy, so that everyone can understand the challenges that we face, and take their part in their role for the transition to net zero?

As I mentioned in earlier answers, we have a range of strategies in place to support people to make their green choices. We have the boiler upgrade scheme, which is launching next month with £450 million-worth of support over three years, to help people to make a green choice in their heating. We have the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 to help people to make green choices in their transport. We have the jet-zero initiative, to help people to make green choices in flying and transportation. So we think the better approach, rather than trying to dictate people’s behaviour, is to support them to enable them to make green choices.

My Lords, late last year, the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, involving many prominent UK university academics, produced a report showing that the UK can halve its energy demand by 2050 and still improve the quality of life. That group suggested four possible approaches to government policy on energy demand reduction, ranging from ignore, to steer, to shift, to transform. How does the Minister classify the Government’s approach?

We have discussed in this House in many debates a number of the policies that we have to reduce energy demand. I know that the noble Baroness is a keen advocate of energy efficiency, and I agree with her on that. We have a programme of almost £7 billion-worth of expenditure over the next few years to enable energy efficiency improvements, including home upgrade grants, the local authority delivery scheme, the social housing decarbonisation fund, the public sector decarbonisation strategy, et cetera. They are all about decarbonisation and improving the efficiency of our energy usage, which is, of course, the best form of renewable.

My Lords, like the Government, the Church of England has targets for reaching net-zero carbon, in our case by 2030. Churches across the Anglican Communion are deeply affected by climate change. For example, Madagascar recently had four cyclones in two months. We are working right across the communion on this question. This week, we have had a gathering of archbishops from across the communion representing more than 100 countries. Will the Minister set out the plans that the Government have to work further with faith communities, which have unique distribution and contacts, from the grass roots to the highest level, both nationally and internationally, and will he commend the work that they are already doing?

I thank the most reverend Primate for his question, and it is a pleasure to see so many of his colleagues in the gallery with us this morning. Achieving our net-zero targets will be a shared endeavour, requiring action from everyone in society. I very much welcome the 2030 net-zero target set by the Church, and I am following the Church’s consultation on its net-zero road map with interest. It mirrors our net-zero strategy, which delivers a comprehensive set of measures to support and capitalise on the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050. I would be very happy to meet with the most reverend Primate to discuss how we can build on that excellent work and how we can work together to enable our green future.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that everything has changed as a result of the war in Ukraine and the huge increase in the cost of fossil fuels? Given our dependence on fossil fuels as we move away from them in the longer term, are not the Government to be congratulated on allowing further development of North Sea interests in order to enable security of supply and, most importantly of all, to protect the poorest people in this country so that they are actually able to meet their bills?

My noble friend makes a very important point. The Ukraine crisis has changed everything. What the crisis in the use of fossil fuels demonstrates is the need—ultimately, in the longer term—to use less of them and to move towards more renewable power, which I know my noble friend supports. However, in the meantime, for the transition, we will still need oil and gas, and my contention is that it is much better to achieve those supplies from our own domestic production, which is secure, pays UK taxes and employs UK workers.

My Lords, the Minister has very wisely said that new nuclear forms an important part of this strategy. Can he outline to the House what his strategy is going to be to persuade the Scottish Government that new nuclear stations should be established at places like Hunterston and Torness, where the communities are very willing to accept them?

The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. Nuclear will make a vital contribution to our low-carbon, net-zero future. It is very disappointing to see the Scottish Government rejecting an excellent technology that already works well in Scotland. However, if they continue to take this approach, I am sure that the rest of us in England and Wales will be very happy to help our Scottish friends out by continuing to supply clean, green, nuclear power for them.

My Lords, what are the Government doing to encourage the development of tidal power as an alternative source of energy?

The noble Lord makes a very good point. There are a number of schemes in operation already, and a number of research programmes that we fund to help tidal power. There are a number of different schemes, of course, including proposals for lagoon tidal power, which has proved to be quite expensive at the moment, but we continue to keep these matters under review. We have a constant, ongoing round of contracts for difference, which is our main mechanism of support, and we will, I am sure, look forward to supporting such schemes in the future.

My Lords, do the Government have any plans to insulate homes to a decent standard? We have some of the worst-insulated properties in Europe. When will the Government invest in that, to reduce our need for fuels of any sort?

The noble Lord makes an excellent point. Indeed, we are doing just that. I mentioned earlier that we have something like £7 billion-worth of support through some of the schemes I mentioned, including the social housing decarbonisation fund, the home upgrade grant and the local authority delivery scheme. All of those are focused on helping those on the lowest incomes in society to insulate their homes to reduce their energy bills.

My Lords, can I confirm that the Minister just said that the Government were not open to carrying out a consultation on behavioural change strategy with respect to climate change? If that is the case, it is really quite sad, because businesses are trying to lead the way, but they cannot reap the full benefit of their actions without a clear lead from government.

The Government are providing a clear lead. We were one of the first countries in the world to legislate for net zero; we have provided a number of different strategy documents, pointing the way, across a whole range of sectors, to how we can meet net zero, and we are working very closely with business. We are delighted to see that so many different international companies have signed up to our net- zero pledges. We will continue to work with them and continue to encourage people to make greener choices.