Motion to Take Note
My Lords, if we are to achieve climate and environmental goals and wider benefits for society such as better health, greater energy security and sustainable prosperity, changing our behaviour is essential. Successive Governments have made welcome progress in reducing emissions through technological innovation and changes in energy supply, but far less attention has been paid to making it easier for people to switch to new products and services, and to reduce consumption.
Drawing on the Climate Change Committee’s assessment, our first Select Committee report identified that 32% of UK emission reductions by 2035 require decisions by individuals and households to adopt low-carbon technologies, choose low-carbon products and services and reduce carbon-intensive consumption. One-third of our emission reductions require us as individuals to act. Encouragingly, there is widespread public concern about climate change and a desire for action. We cite government polling showing that 85% of the public are “concerned” or “very concerned” about climate change, but the evidence is that the majority of people lack awareness of the most effective actions that they can take to reduce the impacts of climate change. It means that people need a clear vision now of what they can do about how we travel and heat our homes, and what we consume, including what we eat and waste. The barriers to making those changes—cost, convenience and availability—need to be addressed. This requires action and leadership from government. We found that the Government’s approach is inadequate to meet the scale and urgency of the challenge. Although they have refreshed their net-zero strategy since our report, their approach, Powering Up Britain, to enable behaviour change remains exactly the same. We outline that the Government need to do three things.
First, they should use every lever at their disposal, by which we mean regulation, fiscal incentives and disincentives, adapting the individual’s choice environment and providing powerful informational tools. The importance of using every lever echoed the findings of the 2011 Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into behaviour change. To be clear, the Government have taken some important decisions, including phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel vans by 2030, but not across all high-emission areas—including helping to cut waste from our homes. We have had government consultations on introducing consistent collections for household and business recycling, on an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging and on a waste prevention programme. But there has been no government response, despite all three consultations closing more than two years ago.
I ask the Minister: when will the Government act to help cut the mountains of waste in our homes? Not enough has been done to tackle the high carbon emissions from our 27 million homes. Not enough is not nothing, and our committee has taken a keen interest in how the Government are seeking to pump-prime the market for heat pumps as a means of bringing costs down with stretching targets and the boiler upgrade scheme. However, while we welcome the Government’s intentions and that they listened to some of our recommendations to strengthen the boiler upgrade scheme, barriers around awareness, cost and finding trusted installers remain.
Secondly, we need to enlist the public. Sir Patrick Vallance told us that
“individuals need to know what is expected of them and what they can do”.
The Government have provided online energy advice to the public, which, since our report, has been supplemented by a welcome £18 million energy advice campaign, “It All Adds Up”. However, given the urgency of consumer action and the comparisons with personalised advice services available in other countries, we were left underwhelmed. We saw no evidence of delivery on two of the Government’s six net-zero principles, namely,
“to motivate and build public acceptability for major changes and to present a clear vision of how we will get to net zero and what the role of people and business will be”.
We called for a public engagement strategy to be developed —a call echoed by the right honourable Chris Skidmore MP in his subsequent independent review of net zero.
It is good that the Government have now said that they will set out further details on how they will increase public engagement on net zero. I ask the Minister: will they do so in a strategy, like the Scottish Government’s public engagement strategy for net zero, and consult on it, as the Welsh Government have just done on their draft strategy? As part of increasing that public engagement, will he commit to using climate citizen assemblies, given that the evidence from those forums, including the House of Commons in 2020, is that when the problems and solutions are exposed to members of the public, they are largely supportive of making the changes needed?
Thirdly, we need to help people cut high-carbon activities, such as flying, where technologies are currently insufficient or underdeveloped. The Government soundly rejected the approach we took, arguing that they will go
“with the grain of consumer choice”.
France’s then Minister for Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, told us of their approach to help people cut the number of flights with a ban on short-haul domestic flights under two and a half hours. In contrast, our Government, with their techno-optimism, are pinning all their hopes on new fuels, whereas we conclude that the Government should launch a call for evidence on introducing a frequent-flyer levy on long-haul flights. That could make a meaningful contribution to emission reductions as well as meeting public support for fair measures to address them.
Delivering this behavioural change requires working alongside other institutions and organisations in a more collaborative way than existing government structures and intentions support, especially local authorities, which, due to their proximity to households, active civil society and faith groups, and their ability to tailor place-based solutions, are in a key position to help deliver the green transition, yet the evidence we received identified that they lack the necessary powers and resources to do so. Our report welcomed the creation of the local net-zero forum to support partnership working between national and local government, although there have been reports in recent months that it has been hard to get Ministers to attend. How do the Government plan to enable the necessary net-zero and environmental behaviour changes that local authorities are best placed to deliver, while providing them with limited funding and support?
The Government’s approach to behaviour change, with their mantra of going with the grain of consumer choice, is out of step with science, which demands urgent action. It is also out of step with public support for government leadership, and with the opportunities to grow net-zero services, products and, critically, the jobs of the future. Clearly, it is driven by political imperatives. Part of that is the cost. Overcoming the upfront barriers requires subsidies, with the accompanying case for taxes, which for some is the ultimate in coercive intrusion into personal choice—never mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Stern, reminds us, that the cost of climate action is far outweighed by the cost of inaction.
Part of the problem is that behaviour change for the climate requires collective action and building community infrastructure, such as better public transport, which smacks to some of enlarging the state and shrinking the private space of individuals. Part of it, too, is the fear of it being pulled out of the nanny state, when in fact, choosing not to regulate markets means that you allow companies with no interest in societal roles to shape social norms and choices. It is the opposite of strong government, let alone delivering climate justice, given that going with the grain of consumer choice means consumers have the liberty to do what they want but the resulting impact of climate change will mean suffering for others.
Our report drew on behavioural science, the evidence of what works and the responses from over 150 individuals and organisations to our call for evidence. We thank them for that, the Government for their engagement and our staff, Connie Walsh, Laura Ayres and Oli Rix, with the support of POST fellow Jo Herschan and our specialist adviser, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh. We are also thankful for the insights from our youth engagement programme, from the six schools: Stockton Riverside, Birkenhead School in Liverpool, Grove Academy in Dundee, Ulidia Integrated College in Northern Ireland and Ysgol Cwm Brombil in Port Talbot. We thank them all for the insights they gave us. I also thank the committee members, many of whom are here today, and look forward to hearing what they have to say. It is invidious to call out one person from whom one is particularly looking forward to hearing, but I must point to the noble Lord, Lord Rees, who speaks so knowledgeably on science, politics and ethics: the three things that intersect at the point of our report. I beg to move.
My Lords, this is a very interesting report about people’s motives and communications, from a very distinguished committee, which many of us have read with great interest. My only regret is that there is a certain coyness in the report about cost—the cost of buying into the green energy transition. You may say, “What about cost?”. The point is that costs and savings are the decisive behaviour issue for most people when they have to look at their budget and decide how much to spend and by how much they will be supported from outside.
Of course, it is all okay for the wealthiest 10%—that, we know. They have enough cash to install ground heat pumps or air heat pumps and hope that they will perform and be efficient. That is no great skin off their nose and no great challenge because they have the money. That is for the 10%, but for the other 90%—not just the poorest end but practically every family in the land, certainly throughout the middle and lower-income groups—it is not like that at all. They are dealing with a budget where every penny counts and having to embark on new expenditure and decisions such as this for their homes, small businesses or whatever, is quite a different proposition.
I declare an interest in that I advise Mitsubishi Electric in Europe, one of the biggest producers of heat pumps and air-conditioning. It is working very hard to bring down the cost of this machinery, particularly heat pumps, making them more amenable and accessible for those living in flats, apartments and so on, and making them more efficient in delivering the heating, comfort, hot water and so on that people want. It has some way to go.
The report states, very frankly, that there is “limited understanding” of this whole area. That is certainly true and it applies particularly to the confusion in the public mind, which is aggravated by disgraceful media coverage claiming that decarbonising the present electricity sector is the answer to everything. One gets ridiculous headlines in the newspapers on days when wind power supplies 100% of our electricity, saying that that has solved the problem—“We’ve decarbonised; no need to worry”—so people sit back, unaware that that is only a tiny part of the decarbonisation process. Last year, the electricity sector accounted for 18% of our total energy usage, so the other four-fifths—the other 81% or more—of fossil fuel energy has to be decarbonised. We have hardly started; this is just the foothills. What about the other 80%? This is a gigantic new area, which will require vast low-carbon investment in nuclear power and wind, as well as a virtually new national grid.
My simple message today with this excellent report is that people need to understand the scale of what is to come and how little distance we have gone, and they should understand who is going to pay, whether it is taxpayers again, who are already pressed, or the wretched consumer—one of the Government’s ideas is that the consumer will pay for the new Sizewell C reactor.
My own preference would be that we should give far more effort to mobilising private investment—billions or trillions under management in pension funds are presently going abroad—and injecting that into the vast new expenditure needed so that people can make safe decisions that mean they will not bankrupt themselves and their families by rushing into new projects which are not proven. That is the reality. Cost will guide the decisions and behaviour of most people. The more we understand that and the more we explain where the cost will be covered, the better chance we have—I think we will get there—of achieving our NZ goals.
My Lords, I had the pleasure of joining the Environment and Climate Change Committee after its work on the report on behaviour change was completed. However, I have read the report and absolutely concur with its findings, very ably articulated today by our excellent chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter.
The report makes it clear that behaviour change is one part of the necessary toolbox to achieve our net- zero target by 2050. Government policies and fiscal incentives can go only so far. There has been a lot of talk of hectoring and compulsion, of the danger of pushing through policies against the wishes of the people, but there is huge public support for actions to tackle climate change. As the ONS report makes clear, 64% of adults say they are worried about the impact of climate change, and 59% feel that this and the environment are among the top issues concerning voters today. People want to do the right thing. What they lack is a clear road map to make the necessary changes in their lives in the most cost-effective way.
Leadership and direction need to come from the top, but when did Rishi Sunak last make a meaningful contribution on the need to tackle climate change? He is remembered mostly for turning up late and leaving early at COP 27.
And using helicopters. He is increasingly pandering to the anti-green faction on his own Back Benches, who put fossil fuels before green energy.
This lack of government leadership and awareness of the scale of the challenge was reflected in the response to the committee’s report. It is, by any measure, disappointing. It refers to a plethora of policies and strategies which we know are not being enacted effectively. This failing is clearly demonstrated in our report in relation, for example, to the delays in the boiler upgrade scheme, which we will debate at a later date.
The government response to the committee also fails to grasp the need for greater co-ordination and leadership across departments to provide the public with a clear narrative about the road to change. Yet when Grant Shapps recently gave evidence to our committee, it became clear that net-zero policies were still not a priority for some of his colleagues.
The government response to the committee also failed to recognise the huge benefits in delivering behaviour change in partnership with civil society, local government and business groups. This is particularly important given that the BEIS public attitudes tracker shows that the UK Government are now one of the least trusted sources of accurate information about climate change, so working with other, more trusted partners is key.
On key policy areas, such as aviation and food production, there was a marked reluctance to intervene, yet we know that individuals will have to make difficult choices in these areas if we are to have any hope of reaching our targets.
Since our report was published, Chris Skidmore MP has published his impressive net zero review, which examined how the UK could better meet its net-zero targets in a changing world. He identifies that huge economic opportunities of clean technology could be taken if we moved quickly and acted decisively. But his report echoes the themes of our report. He emphasises that the Government need to ramp up engagement with the public by publishing a public engagement strategy this year, and he proposes the creation of a carbon calculator to provide consumers with better information to make informed decisions on their carbon footprint.
As the evidence for a proper behaviour change strategy stacks up, I hope that the Minister will feel able to give a more positive welcome to our report’s recommendations in his response.
My Lords, our behaviour can adapt at the required pace only if government itself provides the right policy framework and puts the appropriate incentives in place—and that, I regret to say, is not happening.
The majority of carbon emissions in the UK, as we all know, stem from road transport and from heating 30 million homes and buildings. The number of EVs is rising fast and outpacing a charging network which is haphazard and unreliable—viz the recent queues over the holiday at motorway service stations. Range anxiety will not dissipate until a charge point is as quickly and easily accessed as a petrol pump. We need a comprehensive national plan to ensure that, wherever you travel and wherever you live, whether in a tower block, a terraced street, or a country village, a charge point is readily and reliably to hand. When will we have such a plan?
We have the oldest housing stock in Europe—poorly insulated and heated overwhelmingly by gas. For most households, the cost of migrating away from hydrocarbons to effective insulation, which is vital, and a heat pump is prohibitive. How will government transform the incentives —making electricity far cheaper than gas, for instance? When will the Government deliver on the challenge that they set themselves in the 2021 strategy to
“make the green choice the easiest”
“make the green choice affordable”?
Precisely how much electricity do the Government forecast we would need if by 2040 we were successfully to decarbonise transport and heating? Where is the analysis underpinning the “doubling” current need assumption in the Powering Up Britain plan published earlier this year? If it exists, will it be published? Where is the plan for, and what is the cost of, the massive upgrade of our electricity distribution network that such extra demand would require?
Powering Up Britain would not pass muster in any decent boardroom in Britain, for it is full of headlines but largely devoid of analysis and assessment—for instance, of the economics of hydrogen or carbon capture, or clarity about what part both technologies might play. For hydrogen, yes, it would most likely be maritime and heavy rail freight on non-electrified lines —but what else? Mankind, as most here will agree, faces no greater nor more important challenge than net zero, but achieving that goal requires co-ordination right across Whitehall. I worked at the centre of government for six years, and I know just how hard it is to herd the cats and achieve integrated and holistic cross-departmental objectives.
If the UK is to play its part, we need appropriate machinery of government in place. It is plainly right to have an energy department, but I think it is wrong to assign it the lead responsibility for net zero. That can be achieved only by a muscular entity at the centre working hand in glove with all departments and with powerful analytical support evaluating competing technologies, assessing the economics, integrating planning, identifying the costs, and monitoring progress against detailed plans. Until we have such machinery in place—and I greatly regret to say this—we can have no confidence whatever that we are on a certain and optimal path to net zero, and all those many well intentioned individuals who want to play their part and change their behaviour will lack the opportunity to do so.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to be part of your Lordships’ committee under the excellent leadership of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and to present this report and debate it today. Many in your Lordships’ House will have seen the 2021 Hollywood film “Don’t Look Up”, which was written and directed by Adam McKay. It explores the world’s response to climate change through the metaphor of an asteroid hurtling towards the earth bringing destruction in its wake. The scientists and world leaders in the film have a way through the crisis, but only if the scientific facts are acknowledged and the world works together. As noble Lords may know, in the film the world fails that test spectacularly.
Each year brings fresh reminders of the reality of global heating in floods, fires, extreme weather events, natural disasters and rising sea levels. The IPCC continues to publish ever more solemn warnings to the world, including most recently that we are likely to see a 1.5 degree rise in average temperature in at least one year in this decade. The human consequences of climate change are seen in wars, migration, changing crop patterns and the loss of islands and coastal areas. The burden falls most on the poorest and those who have historically used the least in terms of carbon, yet still we do not listen.
Our inquiry confirmed that public concern about climate change is rising. We confirmed that the population is looking for guidance on how best to respond in the key areas of diet, travel, home heating and transport, but we also confirmed that the tools are not in place, the leadership is uncertain and co-ordination is lacking, so our report calls for a serious, committed and joined-up campaign of public engagement and information to create the appetite for and support behaviour change. We have not yet seen a convincing response. This is a relatively small step forward, but something only government can do to encourage the whole sector.
The United Kingdom has become in some areas a world leader in combating climate change with ground-breaking legislation and policies. I appreciate and welcome all that the Government are doing across a range of fields. There are many other actors in this space. My diocese of Oxford has set aside a very large sum to engage with net-zero work on more than 400 vicarages. We have more than 800 church buildings and almost 300 schools. We are on a pathway to net zero by 2035, and we have a vision that every local congregation will be an agent of change in its own community.
However, this report demonstrates very clearly that this is a battle which must be waged on a number of fronts in a co-ordinated way. To use the title of another recent film, we need to be doing everything, everywhere, all at once.
We now have a very narrow window to respond to this emergency. In 10 years’ time, the choices facing the world and our successors in this House will be very different from those we face today if we do not act. The Government’s review, conducted by Chris Skidmore, reached very similar conclusions to our behaviour change report on public engagement and leadership and policy to support behaviour change, yet we still have seen very little action. Will the Minister say when the Government’s energy and leadership in this area of behaviour change will match the scale of the crisis which we face?
My Lords, it was a privilege for me to serve on the committee, even though it was a pain for its other members to have me on it, since I voted against this report. I will explain why.
Our starting point was that there are two ways to achieve net zero, both potentially necessary. One is to adopt carbon-free technologies, and the other is to adopt more frugal lifestyles, reducing the demand for carbon. The committee decided to investigate how great a role lifestyle changes could play in meeting net zero and how to motivate people to adopt them. Our call for evidence explicitly defined “behaviour change”, for the purposes of this inquiry, as
“the lifestyle changes that may be required by individuals, households, and communities”.
We did not seek evidence about adopting carbon-free technologies such as electric vehicles or heat pumps since, by definition, if they are good replacements for the present fossil-fuelled technologies, they require no behaviour change.
So we invited witnesses to give evidence about lifestyle changes, like driving less, walking or cycling more, flying less, eating less meat and shunning fast fashion. Many witnesses, and some committee members, were keen on these lifestyle changes, for reasons quite independent of reducing carbon emissions. They believe, no doubt correctly, that more frugal lifestyles would be good for our bodies and souls. That appeals to puritans, to those who love bossing people around and to eco-warriors who want us to regress to the pre-industrial world.
An early draft of our report criticised government for a lack of leadership and suggested restricting the number of flights that anyone might make. I proposed that the committee should demonstrate leadership by pledging to limit ourselves to two flights per annum. This was rejected out of hand—lifestyle changes are for them, not us. None the less, the committee was all set to proclaim that, without major lifestyle changes, Britain cannot reach net zero. Our draft criticised government for relying too much on technology change and too little on behaviour change.
Then came the inconvenient truth. We discovered that the Government’s official advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, said that 90% of the carbon reductions on the path to net zero could be achieved by adopting carbon-free technologies. A mere 10% of carbon reduction required lifestyle changes, particularly
“a shift in diets away from meat and dairy products”,
as well as reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in travel demand. Suddenly, the huge role we had imagined for behaviour change was reduced to something pretty insignificant. So what did the committee do? It voted to exclude any mention of the 10% figure, even in a footnote. I repeat: it voted to exclude that information. I wait for other members of the committee to justify that.
We needed a big figure to get a good headline, so we asked our excellent clerks to conjure up a larger figure over the Summer Recess, however loosely associated with behaviour change. They duly returned with two numbers: 63% and 32%, both of which appear in the final report. The 63% includes savings from carbon capture and storage, a fact omitted from the report, since no one would seriously associate that with behaviour change. The 32% figure mentioned by our excellent chairman as relying on savings that are the result of voluntary changes includes contributions from electric cars and heat pumps, which people will have no option but to buy from the 2030s onwards.
The justification that I was given for redefining “behaviour change” to include these technologies was that range uncertainty and recharging times require complex journey planning that is inconvenient, and heat pumps will likely leave you needing to wrap up warm in winter. That is doubtless true, but it is obviously not mentioned in the report, lest we provoke opposition to electric vehicles and heat pumps.
I have the highest respect for my noble colleagues’ integrity and sincerity, but, instead of producing evidence-based policy proposals, this report is an exercise in policy-based evidence selection. Inconvenient truths were deliberately suppressed, definitions were changed deliberately to mislead, and evidence was cited for which we had not carried out any investigations. However noble the cause, this is not the way that this House should go about producing its reports.
My Lords, it was a pleasure to serve on the Environment and Climate Change Committee for close to two years, during which time the evidence was laid and this report was published. It was a distinct pleasure to serve under the excellent, able and inclusive chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. It was also a pleasure to work with the excellent staff and advisers who we had in this inquiry—too many to name; I am conscious of my time.
I must say that, having looked at the list of possible speakers, I had hoped that I would not be in the position of having to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lilley. We had very good-natured and interesting debates between us in the course of this inquiry. I really wanted to make another speech, but I cannot resist the temptation. Over a lot of our time together on the committee, I tried to persuade the noble Lord that, for example, my family’s decision to change from a petrol-driven car to an electric vehicle was a lifestyle change, and one whose consequences caused us to make other lifestyle changes. Because of the limited range of the vehicle, we changed the way in which we drove it—indeed, whether we drove it at all. We made distinct changes to the way in which we travelled. I cannot guarantee that I will not make any more than two flights in a year, but I have not yet made two this year. I travel less by carbon-fuelled vehicles and more, happily, by public transport, which is electrified, including trains where I live. These changes, like those of many of my friends and colleagues, have encouraged other lifestyle changes. For example, because we have solar panels on our roof, we make hay while the sun shines. We change the time at which we do certain things and therefore try to use only carbon-free energy if we can.
I could never convince the noble Lord that that was lifestyle change, that the technology was driving lifestyle change and that people’s decision to adopt this technology was not so that they could continue to live as they had but to change and live a more carbon-free lifestyle. I do not think that I ever will convince him. That is, I think, why he was in a minority of one in relation to the point that he made. The last time that we debated this issue, the noble Lord made an almost-identical speech. I was pleased to see that it got quite good coverage in certain media the next day; I suspect they may have been briefed in anticipation and I hope that they have been again today, so that this can be published. The fact of the matter is that, in the committee, all but one of us agreed that the report was a reflection of the evidence that we had heard and that the statistics that we quoted—and shared by the Government—reflected the reality.
I am almost out of time, but I had hoped to make one point, which I will make by referring to another report. We have already heard of the Chris Skidmore independent review, which the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred to. There is an important conclusion in that report, which I came to in the course of listening to the evidence and being on this inquiry. The review by Chris Skidmore echoes a point that was made in the committee’s report about local action being the key to the delivery of net zero. His review highlighted:
“Taking a more locally led, place-based approach can deliver a net zero transition with more local support, better tailoring to local needs, and bring economic and social benefits”.
Having heard the overwhelming evidence that I did in this context, I have come to the conclusion that the future for net zero relies on activating our communities to work in that way to challenge these issues, that we should do this with the support of civic society and local government, and that the Government should enable that.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and her committee for this important and topical report. I warmly commend the recommendation to develop a public engagement strategy to inform the population about the need for greater behavioural change and greater awareness of the risks.
So-called climate anxiety has taken centre stage. I say this as a parent of four young ones, who are all acutely conscious that the seemingly inevitable climate crisis is here and that the ambition of maintaining and restricting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees is now, sadly, beyond our reach, with several leading scientists forecasting that—I stress—without significant efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global average temperatures could rise by between 2.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius, with catastrophic implications.
There is no denying that by adopting more sustainable behaviours we can mitigate some of the worst effects of climate crisis, reduce the depletion of resources and promote environmental well-being. Reducing the information gap around individual carbon footprints is essential. It is important to understand that being climate positive does not just mean driving an electric car and switching off the lights when you leave home. I welcome the Department for Education’s initiative to promote sustainability and to focus the climate change strategy on children and businesses. Indeed, we recently had a Topical Question on what can be done to improve the awareness of SMEs so that they embrace the ambition of getting down to zero carbon.
Transportation accounts for only 29% of global emissions. The largest contributor is the built environment, which accounts for a staggering 40%. The challenge is now how we can change the narrative around which personal decisions and behaviours can truly move the needle. I welcome the Government’s commitment to spend over £6.6 billion to improve energy efficiency and the decarbonisation of heating in homes. New carbon capture and storage technologies, smart grids, sustainable agriculture solutions and carbon removal technologies can all play an important role, but for these technologies to be effective we need supportive policies. We need more investment and collaboration among the stakeholders. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned, climate-friendly appliances such as ground source heat pumps can reduce one’s individual carbon footprint, but they continue to be significantly more expensive than gas-powered alternatives, with a huge upfront cost.
Amid a cost of living crisis, I welcome initiatives such as the ECO+ scheme to incentivise the implementation of these technologies. I am a great advocate of the circular economy and I welcome a change in this paradigm, with materials flowing back into the economy, where they can increase our productivity. What are the Government doing to work with organisations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, which is gathering information around the constitution of our economy’s carbon footprint? How can they encourage further monitoring?
In conclusion, while I warmly welcome the report and the public engagement strategy, its effectiveness will depend on an approach of shared, joined-up thinking between Governments, businesses, local authorities, civil society and individuals. As with the US Inflation Reduction Act, we need to think bigger, think bolder and act now.
My Lords, I congratulate the chairman and those who served on the committee on their excellent report and their work, and the experts who contributed. I declare my interests on the register—mostly that I am honorary president of National Energy Action. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, ably set out why the report is so important—the need to change behaviour and especially how we heat our homes, what we eat and how we can, I hope, rely on government advice to help us in that regard. I am not asking my noble friend to take up the role of nanny, which would not be welcome, but the Government should provide certain parameters.
I should like to draw some parallels with water. After the terrible floods of 2007, where surface water appeared substantially for the first time, there was the Pitt review. Most of its recommendations have been implemented, though not all. There was the Kay review on competition, which was brought into effect—apart from the recommendations on household competition. Then there was the Walker review. Perhaps because she was the only woman to have contributed to this trio, nothing ever happened about its proposals on water efficiency. The link between water efficiency and energy efficiency is close and I hope that it will come out of this report on an ongoing basis. However, it was disappointing that that issue was not progressed at the time of the Walker review.
The chairman of the committee and others have referred to transport, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Birt. I am not going to change any time soon to an e-vehicle because there are simply no means of charging it in rural parts of the north of England. We must address—my noble friend Lady Vere was kind enough to reply on this—the dearth of power points in rural areas. The other confusion on the part of manufacturers is: why should everyone be encouraged to change to electric vehicles when, at the same time, we are told that hydrogen is coming on stream? Which is it? As an MEP, I was heavily involved with the car industry when it made a massive, world-changing investment in diesel. Now we are being told that from 2030 we can no longer buy petrol or diesel cars.
I should like to refer briefly to electricity companies behaving badly. The unit charge we can control but the standing charge that goes to the distributors is something over which we have no control whatever. I hope my noble friend the Minister will look closely at the fine of £9.8 million imposed on SSE by Ofgem for overcharging the National Grid at a time when it was asked to produce less electricity when it should have been clear, as Ofgem said, that SSE was violating its licensing conditions. That is unacceptable. We each are paying 3% on our electricity bills for renewables. If the electricity companies are going to behave badly, that is not good enough.
I welcome the fact that the Government are looking to have more food produced locally, especially food meeting high environmental and animal welfare standards but, please, can these be reflected in international free trade agreements? Currently they are not in the agreements with Australia and New Zealand.
To conclude, we need clear guidance for waste collection and all these other issues to achieve the core theme of the report—behavioural change is in our hands—but with a clear steer from the Government.
My Lords, I have sympathy with my noble friend Lord Browne and hope he does not feel that he drew the short straw in his place on the speakers’ list. I am at risk of endangering my four minutes but, to carry on the film analogies that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford began, the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, reminds me of “Last Tango in Paris”.
For those of us who have not seen this film, it is very lewd, with a particularly interesting scene involving butter. I would suggest that, if noble Lords are of a nervous disposition, they do not watch it. I saw it in Edinburgh many moons ago and, halfway through the butter scene, the lady in the front row, who had a pearls and twinset look about her, leapt to her feet and shouted, “Filth, pure filth!” Then she sat down and watched the rest of the film right through to the end. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, is a bit like that, but he is still with us, and we very much value him on the committee.
I absolutely believe that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, is right that behaviour change includes technology adoption. If we do not get the mood music right for the public in adopting new technologies, anything that deters them in terms of ease or price signals will stop them doing the right thing.
The thing that staggered me about this inquiry, which was excellently chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, our wonderful chairman, was the strength of feeling among the public. They were very clear that they wanted to know what the highest priorities were, what they could do about them and what the Government were going to do to make it cost effective, affordable and easy for them to change their behaviour. People were very clear. We know what the four priorities are, so we could in fact tell them that they are about travel, eating, purchasing, and heating and fuelling our houses. But the Government were not keen to meet the public expectation that they were clear about—that they would take a leadership role in being clear about those priorities and say what they should do in each of those four areas. In fact, we were very firmly told that the Government were going to go with the grain of public behaviour.
So we need a strategic approach. Above all, as well as removing barriers by means of incentives, pricing schemes, regulation and other mechanisms, we need a proper marketing strategy. We spend less on this highest global priority in marketing what we want to happen and what the public want us to tell them should happen than Apple does in marketing its next global product. We have really got to get to the point where marketing and behaviour change are a fundamental part of the policy basket of instruments. I was incredibly upset by the evidence that we got from the Government Communication Service; it was underwhelming in the extreme, and we really have to look at what that service is all about.
Just to finish—because I am conscious of time—with a heart-warming story, there was a thing called Climate Assembly UK, from which we took informal evidence. This was a bunch of folk who were selected from across the UK public to represent all ages and stages, political views and socioeconomic backgrounds, but mostly to represent everything from climate change deniers and flat-earthers to folk at the opposite end of the spectrum—green geeks. They worked together for a year to develop a consensus on a programme of action to respond to climate change. It was amazing how much consensus had developed among that group. It was clear that they were calling for some simple actions and for government leadership in promoting them. I leave noble Lords with some of their propositions —to buy only two pieces of clothing a year; to have only one long-range flight every two years; and to have a meat-free Friday. I commend them to you, but most of all I ask the Minister to tell us what the Government’s strategy is for behaviour change and when we might see it.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend for her very patient and expert steering of this vital new select committee through its first major inquiry and for introducing this debate so effectively. The science on climate change is very clear, and staying below 1.5 degrees looks almost impossible already. The need for action is urgent, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has said. The Climate Change Committee has made it clear that we will not reach net zero unless everyone plays their part with changes in the way we all live—behaviour changes. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, has a rather surprisingly limited view of what behaviour change is—it is about how we live, which includes using different technology.
Given the crisis, the Government seem distracted, unable to focus with sustained attention, clarity or resources on what needs to be done. They say they want to reach net zero but are not putting in place what is required. I am glad to see the new department for net zero—DECC never should have been disbanded— but where are the game-changing policies in this area, in the way that China and now the US, with the Inflation Reduction Act to which the noble Lord, Lord St John, referred, and the EU are taking forward?
The Government say they want to tackle climate change, but they shy away from assisting the public to make the choices that would help to enable that, as my noble friend and others have said. The Government have a major role to play: pointing the direction, redirecting industry. Therefore, it is welcome that they have said no new fossil-fuel cars should be sold by 2030. That redirects the car industry; now that industry is falling over itself to develop electric models. But the Government also need to make sure that this is feasible by putting the infrastructure necessary in place for this—charging points, for example, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, made clear. This enables behaviour change.
One of the things we heard was worry about fairness and ensuring that things were affordable, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned. With the cost of living crisis and the economic consequences of Brexit and the pandemic, this further reinforces the need to invest in, for example, public transport. Housing was another area we examined. How are the Government ensuring that new houses meet certain standards, and what are they doing to bring forward the retrofitting of old building stock, in which people live their lives?
We heard quite a bit about heat pumps, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, indicated. On their implementation, we are far behind our neighbours on the continent—I was really surprised at the evidence we received as to how far they had gone. The grants for heat pumps nowhere near meet the cost of purchase and installation. The Government even have policies here where the perfect is the enemy of the good, by demanding that insulation, which is obviously worth while, goes alongside installation, further increasing the cost. If someone simply bought a gas boiler, they would not need to do that, and that needs to be examined.
As several noble Lords have said, Chris Skidmore has looked at whether the “guardrails”, as he puts it, are in place to meet the target of net zero by 2050. In terms of what the Government were doing to guide the population, we had to conclude that Chris Skidmore’s guardrails were pretty weak, even non-existent. I therefore look forward to hearing what the Minister says in his reply.
My Lords, I congratulate the Environment and Climate Change Committee and its chair, the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, on its report, In Our Hands: Behaviour Change for Climate and Environmental Goals. It clearly addresses the twin crises of climate change and nature loss, and the role of government—although we as a country are committed to net zero by 2050—and it refers to the Committee on Climate Change about behaviours, drawing on the CCC assessment that 35% of emissions reduction up to 2035 require decisions by individuals and households to adopt low-carbon technologies and choose low-carbon products and services, as well as reduce carbon-intensive consumption.
The report points out very clearly that the public are ready for leadership by the Government in this area, and the Government must do far more. It also speaks of the role of organisations in civil society and local authorities to work on this. Business can do a lot. I am an adviser to the Climate School, a wonderful initiative which trains employees in companies. When a company sets a goal of net zero by 2050, what does that mean to the employee and how can they understand the whole concept of climate change, net zero and what role they can play? Much more needs to be done on that. The report makes many recommendations about changing behaviour, including government needing to provide a positive vision and clear narrative. The information is not enough. It talks about fairness, which is absolutely true, and business having a critical role, and that is what I will focus on.
Of course, we have led the way by being the first country to legislate for reaching net zero with the Climate Change Act. In fact, 2019 marked the first year in which low-carbon electricity overtook fossil fuel power in the UK, and our offshore wind industry is respected around the world. In his wonderful report, The Economics of Biodiversity, Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge says that nature is “our most precious asset” and that 1 million plants and animals are under threat of extinction. To quote my noble friend Lord Rees, an authority in this area,
“Our Earth is 45 million centuries old. But this century is the first when one species—ours—can determine the biosphere’s fate”.
I was privileged as president of the CBI to spend a lot of time at COP 26, where business played a much bigger role than ever before. An impact report from the goal 13 platform found that 79% of businesses believe that climate is a mega-trend and that 89% of businesses have at least one climate-related target. Almost two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have committed to net zero by 2050. That is wonderful.
My noble friend Lord St John spoke about the circular economy. There is no better example of the circular economy than my own business and industry, brewing, where nothing goes to waste. A huge proportion of bottles are recycled to make bottles, spent yeast is used to make Marmite, spent grain is used for cattle feed, CO2 is captured and reused, and the water is treated and the effluent water reused.
Technology plays a major role, which the report refers to. At the University of Birmingham, of which I am chancellor, we developed the world’s first retrofitted hydrogen-powered train, which was up and running at COP 26 in Glasgow. His Majesty the King was on the train, as was our Prime Minister at the time.
We need to accelerate investment. There is a lot of investment, but we need to work much faster: we have not started building even one small modular reactor. We do not spend enough on R&D and innovation: only 1.7% of GDP, versus the USA and Germany, which spend 3.1% and 3.2% respectively. Climate finance has not been addressed enough in this report. A huge amount of private finance needs to be addressed. All this change and transition, including with homes, will lead to the creation of 240,000 new jobs, a lot of which will be in SMEs.
To conclude, we should be looking forward to COP 28, led by its president, Sultan Al Jaber, the business ambassador, Badr Jafar, and Razan Al Mubarak, the IUCN COP 28 champion. To cite the president, there is a lack of finance. Some four times the amount of finance is required than is available at the moment, and we need “a business mindset”, as he said. The scale of the problem requires everyone working in solidarity. We need partnerships not polarisation, and we need to approach this with a clear rationale and execute a plan of action.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for her chairmanship of the committee and for securing this debate. I was grateful to be asked to join the committee during this inquiry on the retirement of our well-beloved Lord Puttnam.
The report concludes that the Government’s performance concerning the behaviour change needed to secure net zero by 2050 is inadequate. It has since been echoed with reports from the Committee on Climate Change and the Chris Skidmore review of the net zero strategy. The size of the challenge cannot be overestimated. There must be no delay. The climate emergency is of such magnitude that the Government should respond in similar fashion as was necessitated by the pandemic, as in recommendations 7 and 8. The costs of everyday transition towards decarbonisation must be recognised, not shied away from, as the costs of doing nothing are far greater. That balance must be recognised by everybody.
The challenge includes tackling environmental degradation, as recognised in the Dasgupta review. The significance of behaviours—how we behave—as opposed to doing activities must be recognised, as it includes attitudes and values. The Government’s response did not really seem to get this point, sounding almost on the complacent side, claiming to be already responding to the challenge with their policies and measures. They agreed, in the Net Zero Growth Plan of March 2023, that:
“The public will play a key role in the transition”.
Yet they are still to recognise the importance of behaviours with a serious public engagement strategy, as in recommendation 3—allocating increased spending on communications with information and education, and making affordable choices available.
The Government responded last year to the climate emergency with an array of strategies across all sectors of the economy, but in a somewhat scattergun approach, as exampled in the 10-point plan, and without recognising the importance of co-ordination and consistency across government, which is a key focus for the Cabinet Office. A full public engagement strategy was recognised in the Skidmore review, most notably in three of his 129 recommendations: to expand public spending and public reporting on net zero; to publish a public engagement strategy this year; and to create an office for net zero delivery. Once again, the Government were somewhat complacent in their response, stating that they were already doing the task.
The Government must recognise that a full, rounded public engagement strategy involves a deliberative process and methods. They must engage with the challenges in delivering behaviour change interventions faced by local authorities, the devolved Administrations, civil society and business. The Government have necessarily tackled the decarbonisation of the power sector, yet they still have far to go in decarbonising transport, especially aviation and shipping. They also have much to undertake to address the deficiencies in the built environment, especially in the housing sector, notably energy-efficiency measures and future homes standards. A key indicator of progress is provided by the BEIS public attitudes tracker statistics. The size of the behaviour change needed is revealed in two contrasting statistics: 54% of homeowners do not believe they need any more insultation, which contrasts with a statement by the Climate Change Committee that around 60% of the measures needed to reach net zero require changes to public behaviour. Climate change has already resulted in deep challenges with adaptation requirements to society’s way of life.
Defra’s adaptation programme has yet to address many key areas. Can the Minister indicate when the Government might publish the national adaptation programme and confirm that it will address the full range of climate risks to the UK with mitigating measures? To join up these strategies and action plans, what approach are the Government taking in their own behaviour to ensure that their policies towards achieving climate and emergency ambitions are clear and consistent? It certainly is not easy being green.
My Lords, I thank the committee for its important and wide-ranging report and the Government for their response. Particularly welcome is the assumption of both documents’ recommendation 38 that if there is to be a change in individual behaviour it involves engagement with all sectors of society. I believe that behaviour change is brought about by two main factors: a shared vision of the kind of world we want and an appeal to what is in our interest. Recommendation 65 talks about
“a shared vision of net zero and environmental sustainability”.
I suggest that, as stated, this is more in the nature of a goal, which is good in itself, but that a shared vision goes wider than that. I think we would all agree that at its heart this is a moral issue, for it concerns the well-being of our children and grandchildren and, not least, those people living in parts of the world at risk from rising sea levels and increasingly severe floods and droughts. I also suggest that it is a spiritual issue, for it concerns humanity’s place on earth and our attitude to nature, whether it is one of exploitation irrespective of consequences or one of respect for and co-operation with natural processes.
Those of my generation have, on the whole, been terribly slow in responding to the challenge which has been put to us at least since the 1960s, some 60 years ago now. A combination of blindness, indifference and short-term interests has left us now with very little time to act. On the other hand, as we know, many young people care deeply about the planet and what is happening to it. It matters to them. They have a vision, a genuine, serious care for the earth and its future, and for many of them it is a kind of spiritual vision. Not many of them claim to have an official religion, but they see this as a spiritual matter.
In that connection, I wonder whether the Government, in their public engagement strategy, should not be making more of the role that the different major religions in our country could play on this issue. Although religion is not fashionable in the media, there are large and significant Muslim, Hindu and Sikh denominations, in addition to the Christian denominations. I was very glad to listen to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about what is going on his diocese. I believe that, in their different ways, all religions could play an even more prominent role, not just in achieving a particular goal but, behind that, in giving people a spiritual vision of what it is to be human in relation to the rest of the earth and in shaping an attitude of respect for the environment. There is one brief reference to faith groups in the recommendations, but I should like to see more being done by the Government—perhaps a behind-the-scenes initiative by the departments for business and local communities. I believe that faith groups could have a greater role in fostering that attitude of respect and co-operation with nature, which is so essential for the future and which lies behind particular goals as an overall vision.
A shared vision of the kind of world that we want is one major factor for change; the other is an appeal to what is in people’s best interest. This means that the Government must not be frightened of using their power to change behaviour, by both regulation and financial incentives and disincentives, as set out in recommendation 15 and elsewhere. The Government have a responsibility to use the power that they have, for this is not just an individual private matter but about the good of all. Not least, they must not be frightened of using their power in relation to business. In particular, given the fact that business is driven by what it thinks of as its interest—often seen in very short terms—the Government have a clear responsibility to be aware of corporate lobbying, as mentioned in recommendation 18, and to counter false claims and half-truths, as set out in recommendation 63. Self-interest can be shaped and guided but, sometimes, short-term interest has to be thwarted, and there will be occasions when the Government must be very clear and firm in relation to business.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, on her chairing of this committee and the content of its inquiry. It is a novel and important subject, which really emphasises the importance of lifestyle and personal involvement.
Reading it through, I think the government response is rather sad, really. The Government seem to agree with everything the reports says, but say that they are doing it already and lots of money is being spent—that is about it. I do not think that is quite true. I am sad that there is not more discussion about the fuel duty and train fares debate. Obviously, the committee talked about net-zero air services—we have heard a few comments from noble Lords about that—and of course charging points, which we deal with quite often.
We need behaviour change, however. I want to concentrate my remarks on active travel, which is recommendation 32 in the report:
“The Government must deliver on its ambition to improve active travel infrastructure and local public transport systems by providing the necessary resources and supporting local government bodies to implement projects on the ground”.
Paragraph 64 of the Government’s response says:
“Government is investing more than ever before in walking and cycling”.
The National Audit Office has published, today, a report on active travel. The NAO says that the Government will miss all their targets for 2025 after years of stop-start funding. The report also reveals that there are new cuts of 20% year on year in revenue funding for active travel in 2023-24. This is the kind of money spent, for example, on Bikeability, which is training for school- children so that they can cycle more safely.
This comes on top of a three-quarter cut for dedicated capital spending, announced in March. It is good that the NAO supports active travel, but it says that there needs to be long-term ring-fenced funding to address its requirements. It goes on to say that those investments, which are quite small in transport terms, represent very high value for money—4.3:1—and contribute to many good targets in different departments. The sad thing is that it says that the Government will miss at least three of their four targets on active travel by 2025. These are increasing annual cycling stages and annual walking; increasing the percentage of children aged five to 10 walking to school; and increasing the percentage of journeys of under five miles in towns and cities that are walked, wheeled or cycled.
I could go on citing that NAO report for a long time and I hope noble Lords will read it—it has come out today. A statement in paragraph 64 of the response says:
“Government is investing more than ever before in walking and cycling”.
I am sure they can arrange for some figures to demonstrate that that is true, but it certainly is not enough and we need to be very careful and support the NAO and press the Government for some responses on this issue.
My Lords, Governments are torpid in their response to the climate threat. This is, of course, because its worst impacts will not be manifest until the second half of the century, beyond the time horizon of political and even investment decisions. We are like the proverbial boiling frog, contented in a warming tank until it is too late to save itself.
Most of us do care about the life chances of children and grandchildren who will be alive in 2100, but even well-intentioned individuals feel helpless. Politicians respond to pressure from voters, and voters are responsive not to scientists but to charismatic influencers. I shall highlight a disparate quartet of these—first, Pope Francis, through his 2015 encyclical; secondly, our secular pope, David Attenborough; thirdly, Bill Gates; and, fourthly, Greta Thunberg. Thanks to those personalities, public opinion has shifted. More people care and the rhetoric of business has changed. Climate has gained prominence on the political agenda.
To take a small example, Michael Gove, when at Defra, introduced legislation to ban non-reusable drinking straws. He would not have done this had not David Attenborough’s TV series alerted millions of voters to the downsides of ocean pollution. Likewise, the public would accept regulations that constrain our driving, flying and eating behaviour, and they would support measures to nudge industry towards the circular economy. For instance, buildings with short-intended lifetimes contain materials such as girders and piping that are re-usable. Better still, of course, is to use timber rather than steel, and there has been remarkable progress in timber-frame buildings.
Achieving a net-zero target is a major technological challenge—let us not forget that—but it is a realistic challenge that could be met not just by the UK, which contributes only 2% of the world’s emissions, but by all the countries of the prosperous global North. However—crucially—that is not enough. By 2050, there will be 4 billion people in the global South. Their individual per capita energy consumption is currently less than a quarter of ours, but they will suffer most from global warming and its effects on food production and water. If they gain prosperity, as we surely hope, they could collectively by 2050 be using more energy than the global North does today. If that energy comes from fossil fuels, the world could then be as far from net zero as it is today, and the prospects dire for all, but especially for equatorial nations. It is crucial, therefore, that these nations do not track our trajectory of economic development but leapfrog directly to clean energy, just as they have adopted smartphones without ever having landlines. This benign scenario requires renewables, energy storage and perhaps nuclear to advance technically and fall in cost.
We in the UK contribute only 2% of the world’s emissions, but we could have more leverage if we led a campaign to establish a kind of mega-Marshall plan to stimulate these developments, best of all by collaborating with other countries in the global north. This is perhaps a kind of foreign aid that the public may well endorse ungrudgingly, and it could be to our economic benefit too.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow, and his wise words. Like everyone else, I particularly congratulate my noble friend Lady Parminter, who I know feels that this area is very important, both in practice and in theory. I also congratulate the committee on its work. I congratulate too the Minister and the Government because the Minister has obviously been persuasive in that I have heard today that we have a net-zero objective for Ofgem, after many years of trying to persuade it. I was interested that Ofgem welcomed it, whereas, in the Energy Bill, we heard that it was against it—but there we are; it shows that things can change. I am sure that the Minister was very persuasive in that, so I thank him.
Coming back to the report, I echo very much the feelings and statements of many Members of this Grand Committee and this House that the overall view of the Government’s response is disappointing. Exactly as other noble Lords said, it goes through the list and says, “We’re doing it”, implying that they need to do no more—yet, in a way, it exposes those siloes of each of those areas within the department, not tying them together.
One of the things that we need to take into consideration—I do not think it was mentioned in the debate—is that, although we are being very successful, relative to the globe, at reducing our emissions, the vast majority of this so far has been because we have substituted gas for coal and, increasingly, renewables for gas. That has been easy because none of us have noticed it: we plug in our hairdryer, iron, washing machine or whatever, and they work just the same—we have not had to change anything whatever. Just maybe, despite the problems with the charging networks, we may have that opportunity with EVs as well, with the market and the convenience of EVs meaning that there can be a natural market change, like there was with iPhones, which we moved to without any persuasion from government. At that point, it gets a lot more difficult: we have to make changes that we will notice, which is why this report is so important.
I have great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, said: technology will be an incredibly important part of this. But I do not think we know enough about that percentage split between behaviour and technology—he has obviously heard more evidence than me, and I am interested in that proportion. But, whatever it is, behaviour change will clearly be an important part of that mix, which is why I welcome that report. But, my goodness, we have to carry on with technology, which is why it is important that we get on with rejoining the Horizon programme now that we have the Windsor agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, mentioned the appalling level of R&D expenditure —we need to get that up generally as well. We need help with that for the next stage of decarbonisation.
I was particularly interested to read about the models that might already exist. I like the pensions one, although it is nothing to do with net zero. The Government successfully put in a process that was not obligatory: it sort of happened, and you had to positively say no if you did not want it. It has been very successful. This is one of those areas where you think about the future—maybe 20, 30 or 40 years ahead—when you are normally not too bothered about it. Unfortunately, with carbon, we already have those challenges.
The climate assembly was particularly important, and I ask the Minister whether we can proliferate those assemblies because, as I understand it from speaking to committee members, whatever their background, they have become great advocates of the cause because they were persuaded by the facts. It is also important to have a positive message about climate change. One big problem—I fall into this category—is that we can be incredibly pessimistic about the future of this planet. We all know the challenges of meeting the 1.5 degrees target. However, we need positive messages and to involve communities in particular.
I always mention this, but some 310 local authorities have declared climate emergencies. While some of that may be cynical or done just because it is fashionable, most of those authorities want to implement climate policies, but because of the incredible constraints on local authority expenditure and because those policies are not statutory requirements they tend not to happen much. That is one of the areas that we have to change. There should be more community and district heating schemes. My wife is a member of a parish council and has taken on the role of climate and nature advocate, but she has had to travel down the learning curve like thousands of others in similar positions. We are not spreading that knowledge.
Regulation is usually positive. Biodiversity net gain is a recent example and I congratulate the Government on that, but a main question around environmental regulation is enforcement. It is weak in the UK at the moment. We have been too slow on housing regulation, as others have mentioned.
I say to my noble friend that the one area about which I was slightly disappointed—it was mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria—was the biodiversity crisis, which is not mentioned a great deal in the report, and yet, although connected to climate change, is an equal challenge.
To conclude, we and the Government—this country—are able to show the leadership in this area that we have done as regards technology in terms of delivering on climate change. This should be one or our national missions globally, to be the place that shows that behavioural change is important, can work and can ease all the difficult political decisions that our colleagues at the other end of this building have to make to bring forward this agenda. What I would ask the Minister most is to come back to a strategy of public engagement. We do not have that and are not near it. Chris Skidmore has said that it is essential. Where are we on that? What will its content be? Will it be anything like this excellent report?
My Lords, I begin by also thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and the other members of the committee for producing a thorough and focused report. I was not a member of the committee but will set out my observations on its key findings and recommendations, and the Government’s response. No doubt, the Minister who follows me will tell me whether I have got it right.
Behavioural change is essential if we are to achieve climate and environmental goals and deliver wider benefits. The Government’s current approach to enabling behavioural change to meet climate and environmental goals is inadequate to meet the scale of the challenge. I draw on the Climate Change Committee’s assessment, which identified that 32% of emissions reductions up to 2035 require decisions by individuals and households to adopt low-carbon technologies and choose low-carbon products and services, as well as reduce carbon-intensive consumption.
While the Government have introduced some policies to help people adopt new technologies, these have not been replicated in other policy areas. There has been progress in some areas, but not all—the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, mentioned electric cars.
There is a reluctance to help people to cut carbon-intensive consumption. Time is not on our side, and there is too great a reliance on as yet undeveloped technologies. A quote that I liked in the report was from Sir Patrick Vallance, who said:
“Dreaming that something brand new will appear and save us by 2050 is not sensible”.
Priority behaviour change policies are needed in the areas of travel, heating, diet and consumption to enable the public to adopt and use green technologies and products and reduce carbon-intensive consumption. Polling shows that the public are ready for leadership from the Government in this space. The Government should provide clarity to individuals about the changes we need to make in how we travel, what we eat and buy and how we use energy at home, and they should articulate the many co-benefits to health and well-being of taking those steps.
A public engagement strategy, both to communicate a national narrative and to build support for getting to net zero is urgently required, but information is not enough to change behaviour. The Government need to play a stronger role in shaping the environment in which the public act through appropriately sequenced measures including regulation, taxation and the development of infrastructure. A behavioural lens must be applied consistently across all government departments, as too many policies, from planning and building standards to advertising regulations, are still encouraging high-carbon and low-nature choices. As the country faces a cost of living crisis, the Government must tailor behaviour change interventions to avoid placing a burden on those who can least afford it—a fairness clause. They must also work with the many groups and organisations at different levels of society which have a critical role in securing behaviour change for climate change and the environment. Behaviour change interventions will not be effective nor consistent unless existing structures for the cross-government co-ordination of climate and environment policy are overhauled and made more transparent and accountable to Parliament and the public.
The Government have responded. In September 2022, the Government were under Liz Truss. The one thing that she achieved during her premiership was commissioning Chris Skidmore to lead an independent review of net zero. The purpose of the review was to determine an affordable and efficient approach for the UK to fulfil its net-zero commitments, specifically an approach that was pro-business, pro-enterprise and pro-growth, which I have no doubt members of the committee would welcome. In January 2023, the review’s findings were published in the report, Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net Zero. The review praised the UK for the steps that it had taken towards achieving net zero. However, it warned that the Government, industry and individuals needed to
“act to make the most of the opportunities, reduce costs, and ensure we deliver successfully”.
In March 2023, the Government published their response to the recommendations made in that review. In their report, the Government agreed that “decisive action” was needed to seize the “major economic opportunities” that net zero could bring to the UK. The Government also addressed the review’s 129 recommendations. These included the following three recommendations. The first was to expand public reporting. The Government stated that
“there are many existing mechanisms to regularly scrutinise the government’s performance on net zero, including by Parliamentary Select Committees … independent bodies such as the National Audit Office, and … the Climate Change Committee”.
The second was to publish a public engagement strategy. The Government said that they had outlined their approach to public engagement in their net zero strategy. They also committed to providing additional details on public engagement “in the coming months”. This included plans to support public awareness through their digital platforms, to develop a road map outlining net-zero proposals, to establish a framework to “amplify net zero messaging” and to create an office for net zero delivery. The Government stated that the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero meant that there was now a
“department dedicated to delivering on our ambitious climate ambitions and a senior ministerial voice at the Cabinet table”.
The impact of behaviour change, the actions taken by individuals or organisations to reduce their energy use, can be significant and an essential part of the journey. On the Chris Skidmore review, while we quite rightly have a duty to ourselves, to each other and to the planet to achieve net zero and halt the temperature increase, far too often the argument focuses only on that side of things and fails to acknowledge the opportunities that net zero can bring. The Skidmore review was scathing in its assessment of the Conservative Government’s failure to recognise the huge potential for economic growth and good, green jobs that come with the transition to net zero.
What would we do? As your Lordships know, Labour would put net zero at the heart of our plans for a fairer, greener future with our green prosperity plan and invest £28 billion per year in tackling climate change, growing the green economy and creating good, green, secure local jobs across the country. Last year, the independent Climate Change Committee warned that the Government’s current climate strategy will not deliver net zero and that credible government plans exist for only 39% of the UK’s required emissions reductions.
I conclude where I began: by congratulating the committee on its impressive report and ask the Minister whether he truly feels that the Government are ready for the scale and speed of implementation to achieve environment and climate goals.
My Lords, first, I join virtually every other speaker by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, on bringing forward this debate today, the committee on the report on the Government’s approach to enabling behaviour change, and the many businesses, local authorities, charities and others who contributed to its content.
I start by reassuring the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and my noble friend Lord Howell that we take very seriously the need to engage the public on net zero and the environment, and we recognise that achieving our goals will require changes not only to our energy systems and infrastructure but to our everyday life, such as the way we travel and heat our homes.
The Government will continue to engage the public on the challenge of delivery and on their role and their views, building on what I think are existing strong levels of public support. We very much view the transition to our goals as a joint effort between government, business and civil society. On this point, I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, that the transition must involve all society working together. We continue to work closely with partners in local authorities, voluntary sector organisations and, of course, crucially, business, which all play an extremely important role in how we use and choose different services.
I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Lilley for his points on this matter, and I reassure him that our approach is to support the public in making these green choices in a way that maintains choice and freedoms, which includes adopting new low-carbon technologies and using energy technologies and services more efficiently—but emphasising the importance of individual freedom.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford asked how the Government’s energy and leadership on behaviour change match the scale of the crisis—I think that was how he put it. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, also asked about our strategy on behaviour change. I point both noble Lords to our net-zero growth plan and our environmental improvement plan, where we set out clear principles about how we will empower the public to make those green choices by making them significantly easier, clearer, and, crucially, more affordable, and we continue to work with industry to remove some of those barriers. The plans set out a consistent and co-ordinated approach for engaging the public across net zero and the environment, in both communicating the challenge and giving people a say in shaping future policies.
The purpose of the Government’s approach and the principles we have set out is not, again to reassure my noble friend Lord Lilley, to stop people doing things; it is about enabling people to do the same things differently and more sustainably—to make society greener by design, if you like. We also want the approach to support co-benefits—whether that is in health, well-being or, crucially, our wallets.
The noble Lords, Lord St John of Bletso, Lord Grantchester and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, made points about our approach to public engagement and asked when we would publish a public engagement strategy. Again, I reassure noble Lords that, in the net zero-growth plan, we announced that we will set out further detail on how the Government will increase public engagement on net zero. As part of this work, we will develop a guiding framework on public engagement, in conjunction with partners and trusted messengers, of course, to amplify the net-zero messaging. In the net-zero growth plan, we committed to supporting public awareness of our actions through our various digital platforms, and we are developing a road map, setting out plans and proposals under net zero.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, asked about government plans to enable behaviour change at a local level and how we can take a place-based approach to the delivery of net zero. They both made good points on this. Again, the Government recognise that local authorities can and do play an essential role in driving local action. For example, the Government have provided funding for local on-street electric-vehicle charging infrastructure for all local authorities in England, and they have committed £470 million for local electric vehicle charging over three financial years, up to 2024-25. Of course, as I have said many times in this House, virtually all our energy-efficiency programmes are delivered through, and with the support of, local authorities and housing associations.
I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for highlighting the importance of working with trusted messengers, including faith groups. The above-mentioned public engagement framework will consider this point.
On the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, about Defra’s action on waste, it is important to balance the urgency with the scale of the change needed. We need to ensure that our policies are effective. In that respect, we are working to introduce extended producer responsibility for packaging from 2024, to move the cost of dealing with household packaging waste to businesses that supply that packaging. Emphasising the importance of getting it right, we of course look at what is happening in Scotland and aim for our deposit-return scheme to begin from October 2025, ensuring that consumers are able to redeem a deposit when they return a single-use drinks container. We aim to publish our response to that consultation on local authorities, providing a comprehensive and consistent service across the whole of England.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to a carbon calculator and we have considered this recommendation. In fact, several carbon calculators are already in use, and we are exploring whether there is a user need for new content on net zero on GOV.UK, or whether there is a greater need for additional digital information, rather than a stand-alone calculator tool.
I agree with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, about making green choices easier for consumers. We will seek to address all the major practical barriers to individual behaviours by removing frictions and minimising the disruption to people’s lives. We need to take people with us on this journey.
The transport decarbonisation plan commits to better integrating transport modes, including many more bus routes serving railway stations and improved integration of cycling and walking networks. To make green choices clearer, we aim to increase the provision of high-quality information to the public, including exploring how we better label products and services.
The noble Lord, Lord Birt, referred to the need to work together to achieve our behaviour-change goals, I reassure him that the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has a steering and co-ordinating function across government to deliver our net-zero strategy. Teams from across government continue to seek ways to support co-ordination across net zero and to support environmental, green choices.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, asked about the UK’s electric vehicle infrastructure network. In March 2022, the Government published their extremely ambitious electric vehicle infrastructure strategy, which sets out a coherent vision and commitments to accelerate the rollout of world-class electric vehicle charging networks and get charge points on to the ground more cheaply and quicker. The majority of EV drivers at the moment charge at home, and we expect that to continue, but we are also committed to ensuring that a robust public charging network is in place to enable long distance journeys and, of course, for the many people who do not benefit from on-site parking and need to charge on the street.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked about the Government’s action to reach net zero. The Government are committed to making their own estate and operations more sustainable and resilient, and the greening government commitments illustrate what they are doing to improve their environmental impact and promote greater efficiencies. I also point him to the public sector decarbonisation scheme, which is very successfully rolling out energy infrastructure improvements across the public sector.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referenced the Government’s commitment to active travel. I reassure him that the Government are committed to helping people to walk and cycle where they can, and that we are investing around £3 billion in active travel up to 2025, despite the efficiency savings needed due to global financial pressures. The Department for Transport has also recently established a new executive agency, Active Travel England, responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice for everyone in England to get around, where they can.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rees, for raising the important issue of the circular economy. Again, we want to make it the norm to reduce, reuse and recycle. The previously mentioned policies on waste reform will play a key role in delivering that strategy. Alongside that, we continue to support key developing technologies, including funding the circular economy hub, which will establish circular innovation centres for industries including textiles, metals and chemicals.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the importance of listening to people’s views on climate change across the spectrum and highlighted some of the work of the Climate Assembly UK. Of course, we listen to any views put to us by either individual members of the public or assemblies and we have the Public Attitudes Tracker and the People and Nature Survey for England, which inform us where the public are on these issues. We also regularly fund public workshops and deliberative dialogues to inform a wide range of policy areas, including, in recent years, on net zero, heating, transport decarbonisation, hydrogen, carbon capture usage and storage and advanced nuclear technologies.
As I have set out today, the Government recognise that achieving net zero and environmental goals has to be a shared endeavour, requiring action from everyone in society, including people, businesses and, of course, the Government. We are committed to taking practical steps to support the public to make green choices in a way that supports their choice but, crucially, maintains their fundamental freedoms. We will continue to take this approach across our net-zero and environmental policies to support the UK’s transition to a green and sustainable future.
Including, not especially. The noble Lord is never a pain. The whole point and value of a House of Lords Select Committee is to bring together people with different perspectives and values and from different parties. We look at the evidence, hear people’s views and come to an agreed position, which in this case was a majority position. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, was in a minority of one. As we heard from the Minister, even he agrees with our definition of behaviour change. As the noble Lord, Lord Browne, rightly articulated, we see behaviour change as not just about cutting consumption—the 10% referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley—but about helping people adopt new technologies and services. The Minister’s definition of behaviour change was “enabling people to do the same thing greener”. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, is in a minority of one. I am a Liberal Democrat; I am used to losing. It is time, as they say in “Frozen”, to let it go.
I thank the Minister for his response, although we could disagree about the pace of some of the things he mentioned. We have been calling for an extended producer responsibility scheme for many years. France had one about a decade ago, and the Government called their first consultation on an extended producer responsibility scheme in 2019, so the pace is pretty glacial when the challenge is so big.
However, we are pleased to hear that the Government are at last going to be getting together a net-zero strategy. This needs to be shared endeavour. People around the Room have talked about the need to bring on board local authorities, civic groups, faith groups and businesses, but the only people who can offer that leadership are the Government. We hope that they will accept that people out there are crying out for change. They want to do something about climate change, and they want the Government to lead. The Government have made some good baby steps but need to move much faster and with much greater depth if we are not going to continue having policies that are high-carbon and low-nature. As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, said, we need far greater co-ordination across government to achieve that. I thank the Minister for what he is trying to do in certain areas, but the Government need to do far more, and the evidence of our behaviour change inquiry shows that, unless the Government help people to change their behaviour, we are not going to meet the net-zero goals that the Government have set.