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Climate Change: Behaviour Change

Volume 825: debated on Thursday 3 November 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the advice that they have received from the Climate Change Committee that 62 per cent of emissions reductions involve some form of human behaviour change, what plans they have to introduce a comprehensive behaviour change strategy.

My Lords, the Government recognise that our net-zero target will require people to make changes in how we do things, such as the way that we travel or heat our homes. We want to empower people to make greener choices while maintaining freedom of choice and fairness. As one example of government action, I point out that this summer we launched the “Find Ways to Save Energy in Your Home” page on GOV.UK, which provides homeowners with tailored advice.

I thank the Minister for that Answer. He will remember that on 20 October, in the debate on net zero and behaviour change, he said more than once that the heat and buildings strategy is an example of how the Government are providing advice and support to the public to help them to make green choices. The Climate Change Committee’s assessment of the strategy noted that significant challenges remain, particularly about the skills needed to deliver it. Its June 2022 progress report said that the promised action plan for net-zero skills has not yet been published, even though the EAC said a year ago that

“the workforce of the future is being undermined by a lack of evidence-based Government policies on how jobs will be filled in green sectors”,

while the Scottish Government published their skills plan in December 2020. When will the net-zero skills plan be published?

The noble Lord makes a good point: providing the skills necessary for all the future green jobs is extremely important, and we are taking action on that. We have launched a number of different training competitions and, through BEIS alone, provided about £20 million for two sets of training competitions that have provided tens of thousands of new training places. The DfE has a large skills programme as well, and we work closely with it to ensure that we provide the workforce with the skills that they require.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Climate Change Committee. Why do the Government find it so difficult to help people to eat not 20% less meat but better meat, particularly when that meat is British and produced on pasture with the lowest carbon footprint in the world? Why can they not provide better information for ordinary people to decide how they can insulate their houses? Frankly, it is difficult enough if you are chairman of the Climate Change Committee to find out how to put a heat pump in your house, which I have done. That took me a long time because it is complicated, and there is no indication from the Government as to how best to make those decisions.

I think my noble friend is wrong. If he looked at the pages on GOV.UK, he would find tailored advice for his property linked to its EPC, if one exists. Perhaps he needs to spruce up his computer usage.

My Lords, one of the effects of climate change will be a moderation in the pace of the population increase of the world, which leads to desertification, deforestation and increased migration. How can we encourage that?

The effects of climate change are of course different in different parts of the world. We need to work with developing countries, which we are doing through our extensive programme of international climate change work, to help them to both mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

My Lords, the Government’s own net-zero strategy is underpinned by six principles, one of which is to motivate and build public acceptance for major change. While the Minister cites the energy-saving website, I challenge him to produce any other examples from this Government of trying to give consumers the advice that they need about heating their homes, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, and about the food they eat and buy and how they travel. During the pandemic, which was a successful example of behaviour change, we saw the importance of sustained, clear communication with the public. Will the Government introduce a public engagement strategy, as the noble Lord has so rightly articulated?

If the noble Baroness wants another example, the Help for Households campaign provides tailored advice on the three cheapest and quickest ways to save energy in your home, No. 1 being to turn the boiler flow temperature down. We are very clear that we are not going to get into telling people what to eat and how to live their lives. We want to provide them with the options to make greener choices.

My Lords, may I reassure my noble friend the Minister that the Climate Change Committee does not say that 62% of emissions savings needed for net zero must come from changing behaviour? That would require Stone Age lifestyles. The 62% figure includes savings from carbon capture and storage, and other technologies. In fact, my noble friend Lord Deben’s excellent committee sensibly says that 90% of carbon savings will come from new technologies and just 10% from modest lifestyle changes. Shamefully, the Environment and Climate Change Committee voted to omit that 10% figure from its report, because it would not get a good headline or satisfy the puritans and others who want to make us all adopt frugal lifestyles. Does the Minister agree that being economical with the truth undermines support for sound environmental policies and discredits the committees of your Lordships’ House?

My noble friend makes some interesting points and I will certainly have a look at the claims that he makes. I am sure he would not want to mislead the House about the statistics produced, but he makes an important point about the role that technology will play. We have some fantastic and innovative developing businesses in this country providing many of the solutions that we need to overcome these difficult challenges.

Will the Minister answer the question that my noble friend put originally? When will the net-zero skills plan actually be published?

I cannot give the noble Baroness a precise date but we do a lot of work on skills. I outlined some of the skills strategies that we have adopted to the noble Lord but it is also, of course, not just about what the Government are doing. There is some great work being done in the private sector as well. I have attended a number of workshops and training academies run by, for instance, various heat-pump manufacturers to upskill plumbers and others in the new technologies of installing low-carbon heat sources.

My Lords, while I understand that my noble friend does not want to tell people what to eat, could the Government not encourage people, particularly at this time of year, to eat more game, which is nutritious, low in cholesterol and delicious?

The noble Lord has made the point and I am sure the watching millions will be fascinated to know of his support for the game industry.

The importance of behaviour change to deliver reductions in climate emissions is significant and acknowledged. To achieve the necessary change in behaviour, we know that alternatives need to be in place: for example, to achieve a modal shift in travel by increasing the use of public transport. Against the backdrop of chaos and a major loss of confidence caused by frequent cancellations and delays to rail services, especially across the north, can the Minister update us on progress towards setting up the new Great British Railways body intended to improve performance and thereby contribute to reduced emissions from the transport sector?

I will certainly ask my DfT colleagues to update the noble Baroness on where we are with the new Great British Railways body, but much of the chaos and cancellations we have seen in train services have been caused by the trade unions, which she is close to.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. The Minister spoke about energy efficiency in homes and buildings but does he accept that saving energy in them saves money for consumers and the taxpayer, and that it saves emissions for the planet? Bearing that in mind, is it not time that we had a comprehensive energy-efficiency strategy, including skills training and long-term investment, so that the market can be developed and, in the light of that, does he agree that it would be wrong for the Government to reverse the amendment passed by this House on this issue to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill?

I certainly agree with the first part of the noble Baroness’s question. Energy efficiency plays a vital role, which is why we have a comprehensive energy-efficiency strategy. She will be getting bored with me repeating the statistics, but we are spending something like £12 billion over this Parliament on a whole range of retrofitting strategies, with energy-efficiency policies across all the different domestic and non-domestic sectors.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that considerable amounts of hot air seem to emanate from these premises, particularly along at the other place? Is it not interesting that the press coverage of these premises has been quite strident in saying that we are wasting energy and that an enormous amount of heat appears to be seeping out of these buildings? Does he have any view as to what we should be doing to improve things here?

I am not sure, from attending some of these sessions, that the other place has a total monopoly on hot air production. My noble friend will forgive me for not wanting to get into an area which is not my expertise. I know that the restoration and renewal programme is proceeding; I have not looked at it in detail but, clearly, the way that this building operates through antiquated heating systems is extremely inefficient. One quite interesting point is that a new heat network is being developed in the Nine Elms development, which has considerable opportunities for expansion. There are already tunnels underneath the Thames which can take district heating pipework, and it would be a great example for Whitehall and Parliament to connect to a new and efficient heat network.