18 September, 2020
Theresa May (remember her?) led the UK to become the first country to pass a net zero emissions target as law. Now, the answer to the question of how this mammoth task will actually be achieved is finally taking shape.
Last week marked the culmination of the UK’s Climate Assembly, a representative group of 108 people who have been listening to climate experts and debating topics over five months this year. The idea is that, rather than rely on risk averse (and short term focused) politicians, the Government’s plan to meet net zero can be led by the people considering the options in an informed and deliberative setting. Citizens’ assemblies have been used successfully to inform decisions on climate change in France and on other tricky topics, such as same-sex marriage, and the changes to the abortion legislation in Ireland.
The group was asked how the UK should reach net zero emissions by 2050, indicating their level of support for a long list of topics to identify where priorities lie. To save you trawling through the 556-page report, Carbon Brief has summarised the results in a useful guide, and the headlines are well worth a browse. Some of the most popular include higher taxes on frequent flyers, making clean heating accessible to everyone, and a fast transition to phase out combustion engine vehicle sales.
There is plenty to think about and lots of work ahead. But even then, one pitfall of the net zero legislation is that it only includes production-based emissions, missing out the growing volume of consumption-based emissions that have been outsourced. There was high support among the assembly to address this gap – a crucial step to ensure that the UK’s net zero plan makes a real difference at a global level. In parallel, the UK needs to use this opportunity to be a genuine net zero hero and show leadership in this space by supporting the countries whose carbon impact dwarfs the UK’s, particularly as COP26 looms.
Thankfully, the challenge of reaching net zero is somewhat more straightforward for a business than for a nation state. If you have any questions, you know where we are.
By Patrick Bapty