Moved by Baroness Blackstone
That this House takes note of the role of behaviour change in helping the United Kingdom to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as set out in the report by the Climate Change Committee Reducing emissions: 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, published on
My Lords, I applaud the Government’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050 and appreciate that they are working to try to achieve a successful outcome to COP 26 in November. However, I am not confident that they have done enough yet to engage the public in order to facilitate the behaviour change necessary to reduce emissions. I want to set out the case for doing so, following the valuable report to Parliament of the Climate Change Committee at the end of June.
I begin by briefly summarising what the CCC said. It argued that 62% of measures needed to reach net zero required changes to public behaviour. However, there is currently no centrally led strategy. Although there is high public support for action on climate change, research suggests that there is a lack of understanding about the actions that need to be taken and the urgency required. I understand that the Government’s net-zero strategy is to be published imminently to precede COP 26. My first question to the Minister is whether it will definitely include a public engagement strategy, and, if so, whether it will be genuinely cross-departmental. People will need to change their lives in relation to transport, heating their homes, diet and more general problems of consumption.
There also needs to be a higher level of public understanding and involvement in shaping decision-making, without which success in reaching net zero is unlikely. There is, of course, a role for employers, and business in particular, as well as for local government, the print—and especially the broadcast—media, and the education system. However, the Government need to take the lead. They must also take on those who irresponsibly are purveying false information and scare stories about the negative impact of climate change measures on people’s lives.
It is often helpful to learn from what other countries are doing. For example, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government have assessed work on climate change assemblies undertaken in Scotland, as well as France and Denmark, which have involved their citizens in climate policy-making. What other international initiatives can he tell us about that we might draw on? Clearly the fight against global warming is international and no country is exempt from the challenges it poses.
Concern about climate change is higher in the UK than in many other countries, with 80% of the population recording such concern. However, at the same time, when asked about net zero in March this year in a BEIS survey, only 14% indicated that they knew a lot or a fair amount about it. It is worrying, too, that only 51% of the UK public think that climate change is either entirely or mainly caused by human activity. Moreover, they tend to pass the buck and seem to think that responsibility belongs to others rather than themselves.
Only 26% of those asked had made any change in their behaviour. Even when people want to act, there are worrying misconceptions about the most effective ways to do so. While around 50% of those surveyed were aware that saving on energy consumption at home was a step that they can take, far fewer were aware of the value of eating less meat and fewer dairy products—15% and 6%, respectively—nor of the size of the impact that this could have. Changing our diets is urgent in order to free up land to sequester carbon.
A recent report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change reinforced the importance of focusing on a relatively limited number of changes in behaviour that have the most impact. One of the three measures that it cited was eating less meat. The others were reducing our car travel and our flying. A common misunderstanding, not just in the UK but many other counties, is that recycling is very effective. Though there are of course good reasons why we should recycle, it comes some way down the list for reaching net zero.
If far too few of our citizens are well informed about the actions needed to counter climate change, what must the Government do? Above all, they must engage the population, including those who are hard to reach. They should find ways to bring people together to discuss the challenge that we face and how to address it. One small example, close to home, is the citizens’ assembly that was run last year by six House of Commons Select Committees. It showed that, when problems and solution are discussed with members of the public, for the most part they support making changes.
Starting with pupils at school, only this week research on young people’s attitudes showed how concerned they are about climate change and how anxious they are about the survival of the planet. Three-quarters said that they are frightened about their survival and their future. It is noteworthy that 80% of those participating in the parliamentary assembly that I just mentioned thought that climate should be a compulsory subject in all schools. Can the Minister tell us what the current position is on the national curriculum regarding coverage of climate?
We must build on the positive mindset of young people, giving them the tools to take the action needed to stop further rises in temperature. Little progress can be made unless teachers feel confident about their own competence and knowledge in this area. There is evidence that many of them want more training. In a survey this year of 7,500 teachers, 70% said that they had received none. Knowledge alone is not enough. They must learn about best practice in learning approaches and how to convey to young people a sense of their own potential to be part of the solutions, as well as how to be ambitious and resilient in responding to the challenges. What resources are being put into initial and in-service training to help teachers rise to this task?
The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is an excellent opportunity to address behaviour change among college students. The same issues apply to them as to their parents, such as the forms of transport that they use in their daily travel, where there are choices available to them. In addition, there is a need for FE to provide courses that will create the skills needed in a green economy and to make their students aware of the job opportunities available to them if they acquire these skills. More attention must also be given to phasing out qualifications that make no contribution to the net- zero economy. Just as schoolteachers need improvements in their preparation for curriculum initiatives on climate issues, so too do college lecturers, especially in specific areas such as decarbonising heat in homes. Please can we have a skills strategy from the Government to power the transition to green technologies?
The work needed to put in place targeted public engagement costs money, especially to reach those groups who feel socially and economically excluded, who do not typically take part in discussions about public policy and indeed are rarely invited to do so. Back in June, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, asked the Minister about spending and when figures would be released. The reply was, “in due course”. Has due course been reached, and can the Minister tell the House what the budget is for public engagement? It is all very well accepting the Government’s words that
“Public engagement can help build awareness, acceptability, and uptake of sustainable technologies … over the long term and can also help improve the effectiveness of policies”, but they must will the means to do this as well as aspiring to it. Would it be too much to ask the Government to create a national debate on the contribution that each and every one of us can make to countering climate change and reaching net zero? In every city, town and village, invitations might go out to join community discussions around a short paper setting out what the options are.
I hope that the Minister will respond positively and be willing to set in motion an approach of this kind, which might be announced at COP 26 in November. At the last global conference, the Paris Agreement stipulated that measures should be taken
“to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information”.
Having done far too little since then, we now have the opportunity to take the lead at COP and, in doing so, particular emphasis should be placed on public participation. This can be done in the context of the UN’s action for climate empowerment, which commits all nations to engaging their citizens on climate change. At present, Governments are not measured on their commitments and there is a lack of infrastructure and no monitoring or reporting process, according to the charity Climate Outreach. If the Government could take the lead by announcing a comprehensive and radical approach, and in doing so get public engagement with climate change much higher on the international agenda, that would be a triumph. Let us try to be a world leader in this area.
Within the UK, we must evaluate and monitor our progress in getting the public participation that the Climate Change Committee espouse. Can the Minister say what the Government propose to do in this respect? It is vital to understand the barriers that may emerge, to know what forms of communication work best, who the best people to promote public dialogue are and how to get people debating together about what they as individuals can do, avoiding the feeling that they are being talked at or just bombarded with information.
My last point is the value of trust. Increasingly, there is an absence of trust in Government and a denigration of politicians. There is a need to build trust in the messages that are sent. To do so, the messengers must be perceived to have integrity and must demonstrate that they themselves are committed to individual action on climate change. The upside of any debate on tackling climate change is that it is not largely about party politics. We can and should put political differences aside and unite to meet the expectations and hopes of young people, to save the planet and to engage the hearts and minds of our citizens in doing so. I beg to move.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness for bringing this topic to the Chamber this afternoon and for her excellent speech.
Up to now, most of the adaptations and changes required to reduce carbon emissions have been done to us, or for us, by the Government or have been as a result of business decisions. For example, all the changes in the means of production for energy have been done for us. We have hardly been aware of those changes—unless, of course, like me, noble Lords have solar panels on their roof. Only now are we starting to get to the more difficult bits, such as starting to change how we heat our homes.
There are exceptions. For example, we have adapted to paying for plastic bags; as a result, we use far fewer of them. Most of us could talk at length about local recycling schemes, the differences between them and the benefits of some of them. However, the lessons of those two examples are that it takes a long time to bed in change in our behaviour. We face a climate emergency. The big question is: is 2050 early enough for net zero? There is real doubt about that. The answer? Probably not. The longer it takes to start, the more radical the changes must be.
In the time I have, I will concentrate on transport because it is the single biggest sector for CO2 emissions. It is also the only sector where, in recent decades, emissions have not fallen despite technological improvements. Earlier this summer, the Government produced a welcome transport decarbonisation plan. Unfortunately, it started with a complete fallacy. It said that we can carry on doing everything we currently do and that technology will make the changes we need to reach net zero. This argument was even applied to aviation.
The problem with transport is that we all want to travel more, not less. The pandemic has given us pause for thought and demonstrated that a lot of our travel can be avoided. During the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about finding new, healthy and environmentally friendly ways in which to live and work. Now that the Government think the pandemic is over, their rhetoric has immediately pressed us to get back to the office despite the fact that we have demonstrated that we can do a great deal of work without being in the office. Fortunately, many employers and employees are resisting this, but trains, the Tube and buses are crowded again and our roads are very congested, with traffic volumes up to and beyond pre-pandemic levels because people are now reluctant to use public transport. We were beginning to see the switch to public transport, but that has regressed.
There is a saying: “Never waste a crisis.” The danger is that the Government will waste this one by not seizing the moment and not capitalising on the pause that the pandemic created. There is every reason to review, for example, business travel because Zoom can do much of it without the same waste of time or CO2. There are major opportunities for change, but we are also at a dangerous point because we are no longer bound to the EU where the rules have set world standards for so long. We must not allow ourselves to slide back from that.
Specifically, there is the problem of time lag. Vehicles manufactured today will still be on our roads in 20 years’ time. The time lag is even greater for buses, planes and ships. The Government need to influence what we buy and use now. We are buying enormous modern SUVs. The Government also need to influence how we drive them. We need information so that we understand all the implications of our behaviour. All social revolution needs this; it needed it for drink-driving, seatbelt-wearing and smoking. We must have government information backed up with regulations to give us a nudge. We need taxation to encourage us not to buy SUVs, to ensure that aviation tax is reformed and to discourage frequent flyers. We need regulation change; for example, to encourage us to drive more slowly.
We face an emergency, and emergencies require urgency. The rain is falling on the ice caps now. Belgium as well as Bangladesh face people dying in flash floods. It is not enough to plan for tomorrow. The Government need to plan for today, utilise the expertise of our universities, our scientists and throughout the Civil Service, and ensure that we have an effective public debate.
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on the extreme timeliness of her Motion, amid the final preparations of the build-up to COP 26 in November. I declare my related interests in energy issues, as set out in the register.
Currently, I see two major public behavioural barriers to addressing successfully the dangers of climate change and extremism. One—noble Lords can read about it in this morning’s papers—is exemplified by Extinction Rebellion and its associates. Frankly, they have done untold damage to the climate cause here, hurting a lot of people quite unnecessarily along the way.
The second, more serious, barrier, or problem, is the ocean of wishful thinking that still surrounds the preparations for COP 26 and the UK’s own net-zero goal, as well as the priorities being urged by the Climate Change Committee. Our net-zero goal, if it can be achieved, will of course have no direct impact on rising world emissions; we are brave but too small for that. That is just a statistical fact. Furthermore, the “zero” applies only to the production of carbon and not to the swathes of carbon embedded in the CO2 we import and consume instead of generating it here, as authorities such as the excellent Professor Dieter Helm constantly remind us.
The theory, I know, is that, by going all out for UK net zero, which might be attainable in the UK at considerable cost and hardship, we will set an example, offer a model for others and gain moral standing. The fact is rather different. The fact is that global emissions are all set to resume a rapid rise anyway after the year’s pause of the pandemic because, for most of the major emitting nations and regions, while they may note—even admire—our efforts, development and the escape for millions from poverty are the absolute priorities. For China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Brazil, to name but a few, these are goals from which they deviate at their peril. Of course, that is why we can see that some of these countries have rejected the COP 26 wording for an end to coal generation.
As a consequence—this must be faced as a reality—world demand for oil, gas and coal will inevitably continue to grow in the years ahead, thanks mainly to the Asian and African utilities. For the advanced economies, the best path to curbing soaring emissions of carbon and of methane, which is an even worse greenhouse gas, lies in a different direction to the one we are currently being enjoined to pursue in this country.
The Climate Change Committee asserts that, for us, net zero is compatible with our climate interests and targets. That is definitely not so under present policies. As the emissions figures clock up—as they will—going flatly in the opposite direction of the Paris goals, which require not just levelling but falling numbers, there will be considerable frustration and anger. Talk of betrayal will come not only from the likes of Greta Thunberg.
Legally binding reduction targets, extracted with huge effort by COP 26, will be washed aside by reality, simply because Governments in the big emitting countries, although they may have serious carbon-reduction targets, have no choice but to press ahead with power supply expansion by the quickest and, in many areas, the cheapest available means, including by using the sunk capital in their present energy systems. If we can offer a useful model to assist them in escaping this trap and decarbonising their entire energy grids, it must be built around a massive technology input, showing how all the smoking chimneys of Asian and African electric power, and all the coal stations, current or planned, could be retrofitted or capped with carbon capture swiftly and affordably, allowing an expanding flow of plentiful cheap energy to continue. This is the essential ingredient of sustainable growth.
I note, finally, that many of our own green voices are actively against carbon capture from burning oil, coal and gas, just as they are actively against the search for cheaper nuclear power. That eliminates two of the main means of checking global emissions growth. This is not progress; it is going backwards towards certain failure. Demand for fossil fuels worldwide will grow further before it falls.
If we are truly serious about averting climate catastrophe, we should be looking in other directions. Time does not allow me to expand on those: they are available, possible and should be tackled honestly. The COP 26 planners should be looking at these areas, instead of trying to pull together the shaky bandwagon of net-zero commitments, which will not—indeed cannot—materialise without fundamental changes in our policy direction and in the whole of Asia. Nothing short of that will do. Perhaps it is time to be honest, change direction and thereby remove a big barrier of misunderstanding and misdirection for genuinely lasting success for the forthcoming COP 26 conference in Glasgow and our national contribution to the climate struggle ahead.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on securing this debate on such a vital topic and setting out the issues so comprehensively. It is increasingly recognised that the equation of human advancement with economic growth has been catastrophic in fuelling the climate crisis, and that tackling this crisis will require not just technological and scientific innovations, but considerable shifts in the way we behave. We must all consider the implications of our choices and actions on societies beyond our shores and lifetimes and put ourselves in the shoes of future generations when choosing how we act in the here and now.
Encouraging and maintaining these changes in behaviour will require much more than just a laying-out of the logic. Sustained behaviour change will involve calls on our imagination, compassion, creativity and ability to empathise. If ever there was a time to “only connect”, it must be now and on this issue. We will need to combine the prose and the passion, the heads and the hearts, if we are to achieve the change we need at the speed required.
The obvious place to start is with education, and yet the presence of climate change in primary and secondary school curricula is, at best, limited. Where it exists, teaching generally takes place within natural sciences, explaining the devastating impact of human activity and the potential consequences of rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and increasing sea levels. Yet climate change cannot be seen in isolation from the social, political, cultural and economic, all of which are absent from climate education. This is problematic, not least because this broader agenda would offer routes for young people to study potential solutions, rather than to focus on the catastrophic.
Research has found that this focus on fear and disaster can lead to a growing sense of hopelessness and panic in young people, with a poll last year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealing that 57% of child and adolescent psychiatrists have seen patients who are distressed about the climate crisis and the environment. While these responses are normal, to some degree, a balance needs to be struck in which education about the consequences of climate change is matched with a focus on solutions, empowering children to respond positively and with hope.
Julia Bentz, from the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes at the University of Lisbon, suggests that this is where the arts and humanities can play a critical role. Arts-based learning about climate offers space for experimentation, perspective taking and the co-creation of imaginative solutions. It can help to transform emotions away from fear and towards hope, responsibility, care and solidarity. Evidence shows that this kind of arts-based engagement, from an early age, has a greater chance of leading to pro-environmental behaviours and attitudes. Despite this potential, climate change is rarely integrated into the curricula of arts subjects.
This disconnect between arts and science extends beyond education into the ways we think about research and innovation, with a persistent dominant view that science alone will deliver solutions to our most pressing challenges. The current HMRC definition of research and development reflects this view; it specifically excludes the arts, humanities and social sciences, and therefore excludes them from associated tax relief too. This misses the important opportunity for scientific and technical advances to be informed by insights into human behaviour, social norms and culturally appropriate communication, which reduces the likelihood of new technologies being adopted at the rate or scale required.
The AHRC’s Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, backed by a wide range of sector bodies, has called on the Government to amend their definition of R&D to drop this explicit exclusion. Can the Minister say, in winding up, how the Government will respond to this call following their consultation on R&D tax credit schemes? Acknowledging that the definition of science includes the systematic study not just of the nature and behaviour of the physical and material universe, but of humankind, culture and society would be a valuable step towards the integration of technological and behavioural advances that will be vital, if the UK is to reach its target of net zero by 2050.
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for the opportunity of this debate. I have just finished reading a book about wilding in the UK, and it is a classic story of how difficult it is to change a culture, attitudes and expectations from deeply embedded practices and convictions, in this case about how we manage our land—which was appropriate, with the Environment Bill this week. The same difficulty applies in this debate, which is less about government policy and more about how we, as citizens, choose to live.
My main point, in discussing the role behaviour change can play in helping us towards net-zero carbon emissions, is this: it is essential that our expectations are aspirational, but also realistic. They need to apply to all people. It is my fear that the poorest 10% will be left not just behind, but feeling that they are part of the problem, when they would rather be part of the solution.
So far, the behaviour changes we wish to see have been inaccessible to many on low incomes, simply because they cost much more. I believe cars that are powered without petrol or diesel are the future, and I hope to see a mix of financial incentives and legislation to encourage their uptake and so change our choices, but they remain considerably more expensive in outlay and then do not hold their value. A petrol car is cheaper and easier to sell on and, if I live in accommodation without a driveway, is considerably easier to fill with the required fuel. So it is for other goods, such as locally grown organic food, which remains more expensive than highly processed food grown out of season abroad. Similarly, I have complete sympathy with any working single parent who decides to shop for the cheapest school shirts money can buy, instead of those made of fair-trade cotton. Food, clothing, travel—all these remain prohibitively expensive for some. When we seek to change the behaviour of the whole population, we must consider how we might incentivise with price reductions or even subsidise these things to make them accessible to all.
Also, the industries that employ people on lower incomes must be those we seek to incentivise, and possibly most strongly penalise when they fail to make the necessary changes. Manufacturing, food production, aspects of the gig economy: these are all sectors that will have to put their greenhouses in order or presumably risk facing sanctions designed to force a change in behaviour. Wages could be pushed down and jobs could even be lost to pay for the necessary changes in production and carbon offsetting, and the burden will be borne by those at the bottom of the pay scale.
Finally, it feels that every time I am here I bring up the same matter. I follow the focus of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which is that public transport in the north of the country remains inadequate, particularly between the big cities and most especially for those on low incomes who need it most. It is essential for the change of behaviour we seek, and for the sake of the climate, that funding per head on transport infra- structure is, to use Her Majesty’s Government’s phrase, levelled up.
One should not be surprised to find out that spending on transport infrastructure is higher in London than in any other part of the country, but that spending per head is so considerably higher in the capital than in the north of the country is less easy to comprehend. Indeed, I recently read that it is twice as much per head than in the north-west and more than three times as much as in Yorkshire and the Humber. How can people be expected to change their behaviour and choices if the opportunity is not given them to do so? Without proper and fair investment in greener ways to travel, reliance on road travel will only increase, especially after the pandemic, which still impacts the numbers who use our trains, trams and buses.
In summary, the blend of incentives and penalties I have heard suggested will be essential in helping us all change our behaviour, which is incredibly important and very possible as we seek to reach net-zero carbon emissions. However, we must do it in a way and a manner that does not leave any constituency behind. Lack of financial means should not prevent some sharing the journey to net zero. I mentioned the book I read just recently, in which the quote is given: you can’t be green if you’re in the red.
My Lords, it is a genuine pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. I commend him for reminding us how important it is to consider first those at the bottom of the pay scale; I thank him for that.
I congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone and thank her for instituting and introducing this important debate on the role of behaviour change and the case for a public engagement strategy in helping us to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. She made an excellent and comprehensive speech, which has already been commended. I hope the Minister will respond positively to it, as she asked him to do.
I thank all the organisations that have circulated briefing papers to speakers and more broadly. They are all of value and, like the excellent Library and Peers for the Planet briefings, have increased my knowledge and contributed to our debate even before a word had been spoken in the Chamber. On that point, let me take just a few seconds to repeat a suggestion that I have made twice before in the context of debates in your Lordship’s House.
I cannot do justice to any of the briefings—I have no intention of going through the many proposals they suggest; we can all read them for ourselves—but they contain many good points and, as the focus of this debate is on public engagement, I ask again: can we not open a web-based portal for every debate, or at least some, which would allow people who wish to engage with us to post their briefings in real time and have them preserved with the official record of the debate, and would expand the debate out into society? It would create a much more inclusive context for our work and allow us a significant amount of outreach too, given that we are constantly seeking ways to make our deliberations more relevant to a wider audience.
According to the CCC report, three-fifths of the measures required to get to net-zero emissions will require at least some degree of behavioural and social change. However, as Lorraine Whitmarsh, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Bath, commented:
“But this only factors in changes in consumer behaviour, such as switching from petrol to electric cars, or gas boilers to heat pumps.”
The list is endless; it has already been covered substantially in contributions. She continued:
“This is a very narrow definition of behavioural and social change. People are not only consumers—they are citizens, parents, members of communities, employees, employers and political actors.”
I add to that that people are company directors, politicians and Ministers. One view is that the truth may be that all the measures required to get to net zero depend on behavioural change by people.
As I have already said, I cannot do justice to any or all of the briefings I received, but for the rest of what I am going to say I will concentrate on the issue of trust, because that is about our behaviour—not just that of Ministers but of parliamentarians. I was struck by the last bullet point in the Climate Outreach briefing I received, which says:
“The public takes strong cues from government action so policies and government spokespeople”—
I would add parliamentarians—
“need to be seen as being in tune with the action being asked of individuals.”
The heading that it gives is that the Government needs to be in step.
Regrettably, at a micro level the Government, and probably many of us, have recently had problems in this area. The sight of a Cabinet—at which there were at least 27 senior members of the Government sitting close together around a table without face masks—agreeing that a key message to deliver to the people is to wear a mask in crowded settings was not helpful, nor is the regular drumbeat we have of Ministers and others being embarrassed by being asked simple questions such as, “What sort of car do you drive?” This is really important, and all of it is very good fun at this level, but at the macro level there is an important issue. If people are to be persuaded to change their personal behaviours, Governments, leaders and we must inspire confidence that we are tackling the larger and more difficult challenges—and we are comprehensively failing to do that. We regularly say that the Government’s primary responsibility is their duty to protect citizens. We have to be really careful that asking individual citizens to bear the burden of a substantial share of global warming does not reverse that relationship, moving responsibility from the protectors to those who should be protected. Part of the public engagement strategy must be empowering citizens to hold their Governments to account for their responsibilities, first and foremost.
A relatively recent report from the Carbon Disclosure Project—now known as the CDP—found that just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988 and that a mere 25 corporations and state-owned entities were responsible for more than half of global emissions. Mostly these are fossil fuel companies, and China is responsible for a disproportionately large share of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its coal production and consumption. A few countries and companies are responsible for so much of global greenhouse gas emissions that our first response should be, at business and government level, to ensure that people take responsibility for curbing industrial emissions. That should be our priority.
This is not to say that individuals cannot do things. They can, of course: we have heard about them and there are lists of them. Every contribution helps, but we must be careful not to get to the point where these failings are considered morally blameworthy. In particular, individuals living in poor countries who have contributed almost nothing to climate change deserve the most support and the least guilt.
I repeat that the most effective change in behaviour will be to empower citizens to hold those who are responsible for climate change accountable for their actions. That is why a successful COP 26 is so crucial. Unfortunately, I am not very confident that it will deliver.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on this debate; I wish we could have this sort of debate every day. It is absolutely true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, said, that our young people are terrified. We need to talk solutions. I try to offer solutions in this Chamber, but I am afraid that the Government simply do not understand the urgency. This is an emergency and a crisis, and the Government are not stepping up. For all their fine words, they do not measure up to the task.
Most of us here in this Chamber will die of old age; that is what I suspect we would all like. By contrast, many of the young people at school today will die from the consequences of climate change: flash floods, droughts, and conflicts brought about by shifting climatic conditions. It is going to be an unstable world—more than it is already.
I will deal with only one aspect of this crisis: sea level rises and their impacts. To some extent, of course, every single person has to do something—behaviour change has to be universal—but I am afraid that the Government have to take the lead on this. The Government can make it easy for people, and at the moment they mostly are not.
In 2007 the IPCC had a worst-case scenario of a 0.5-metre sea level rise in the next 100 years. It was a fairly reassuring analysis that did not include any figures from melting glaciers and ice sheets, because that was not going to happen in anyone’s lifetime. The evidence started to say otherwise, and has rapidly changed with each new report from a satellite or Arctic monitoring station. Every IPCC assessment in the last 14 years has shifted the worst-case scenario much closer to us. The most recent assessment has shifted everything upwards again, but the really terrifying bit is that, due to the IPCC’s rigorous process of analysis, consensus building and governmental oversight, those conclusions are already likely to be out of date.
Any debate we have in this place or the other place needs a new starting point. In the last year, a large section of the scientific community has realised that the models were wrong and that we have lost the 70- to 90-year buffer we thought we had to turn these things around. Things that were not meant to happen until 2100 are happening now. The poles are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, as receding sea ice reduces the ability to reflect heat back upwards and melting permafrost releases methane that creates a warming cloud of local gases. The decline of the Greenland ice sheet is inevitable. That alone would lead to an estimated 7-metre rise in sea level. To put that into perspective, this House is 6 metres above sea level, so much of London will face regular flooding unless multi-billion-pound mitigation works are undertaken. Even then, it will not stop the flash floods.
When we discuss behavioural change, we are talking about more than switching off the lights when you leave an empty room, not leaving your TV on standby or even buying an electric car. As for all these technological advancements that are going to save our planet, they are not here yet. We cannot rely on something that could be five or 10 years in the future. We absolutely have to deal with what we have now.
We need wholesale change, which requires government to make the choices easy and more obvious for people. For example, the cost of travel by car has declined by 16% since 1997, but the cost of coaches and buses has gone up by a third. Why has the cost of domestic flights gone down by 16% but the cost of a train risen by a quarter? That is the Government sending signals in the wrong direction. When the Government finally put a charge on plastic bags, the result was a huge public switch. They have refused to put a deposit charge on plastic bottles or plastic-lined coffee cups, so the results have been completely different.
Plastic has been the one big growth area of the oil industry, and it nearly all goes in the waste-bin. The oil companies make money out of making it and the waste companies make money out of burning it. The consumers end up paying the long-term cost for something they did not ask for. We need the Government to make the alternatives cheaper and easier to use.
None of this can wait until 2050; we have lost that chance. The fundamental changes to our lifestyle have to be made now. Our biggest challenge is not stopping the Greenland ice sheet melting—that chance has gone—but stopping the massive glaciers of Antarctica slipping into the sea. If that happens, no walls will be high enough.
When our current Prime Minister was Mayor of London, in the first few weeks of his term I wrote him out three simple rules of sustainability, which I will list now in the hope that your Lordships can use them in future. I stood over him and made him read them, and kept them simple so that he could read them quickly. The first was that every single person has to do something. It is not enough to say that we will all do our personal bit; the Government have to do something as well. The second was that you have to make sure that there are no unintended consequences of something you do now; for example, that green airline fuel does not mean we cannot grow food in a certain area. The other thing is that there is no one answer. People always look for a big solution, but it is too big and too complex. Al Gore said there is no silver bullet, only silver buckshot.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and I totally agree with her that we must have a sense of urgency in taking action now. I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for introducing this debate and bringing it to us. It is so important, and I was very impressed with the way she introduced it.
It is self-evident that we will all have to start doing things differently if we are to stand any chance of keeping warming within the aspirant 1.5 degree target agreed at Paris. The Climate Change Committee’s report to Parliament in June this year said that profound changes in behaviour and high-impact action from consumers, workers, households, businesses and citizens are needed to reach the target. However, there is one other crucial sector that has to step up to the plate and change its behaviour if we are to have any success whatever in asking others to change theirs. I am speaking, of course, of Governments.
My remarks will concentrate on the importance of the Government leading by example. Time and again, they have demonstrated that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. All too often, they seem to be engaged in a tug of war. Government departments are pulling in opposite directions. They seem to be acting in a contradictory manner and sending mixed signals to all the other sectors.
Let me take policy on fossil fuels as a glaring example. In its sixth assessment report, published last month, the IPCC makes it crystal clear that fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to stay within the 1.5 degree warming limit. The International Energy Agency states in its report Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector that the necessary wide-scale transformation of the sector dictates that reliance on fossil fuels must cease almost completely by 2050.
The IPCC and the IEA are agencies whose reports are underpinned by rigorous scientific evidence, yet the Government appear to be in hock to the fossil fuel lobby. How else does one explain their willingness to toy with giving the go-ahead to the new Cumbrian coal mine and the expansion of the Cambo oilfield to the west of the Shetlands? How else does one explain the report in the Guardian six days ago that:
“Ministers, including the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, held only seven private meetings with renewable energy generators between July 2019 and March 2020 compared with 63 with fossil fuel producers”, among them controversial biomass interests? When will the Government make it clear that the era of fossil fuels is over in the UK? When will we finally draw a line under the anachronistic MER policy, which says that the UK Government must maximise economic recovery of oil and gas in the North Sea?
Surely tidying up our policy on the extraction of fossil fuels will send a message to countries such as China and India that we mean what we say about being a world leader on climate action. What a fillip it would give to COP 26, which is just a few weeks away, if we were to signal our intent to phase out fossil fuels. The industrial economy based on fossil fuels started here. Let us end it here too.
I am going to give other examples of where behaviour change on the part of the Government is necessary, and where questionable policy changes that they have made ought to be reversed. Why is it that sectors that pollute receive far greater subsidies than sectors that do not pollute as much—for example, road tax and fuel duty freezes versus train and bus fare increases; subsidies that airlines receive on fuel versus train fares; and keeping gas prices low at the expense of cleaner electricity?
Subsidy reform would be a great tool, as a carrot and a stick, to push forward behaviour change. Businesses and consumers will change their behaviour when they see that the Government are also getting their house in order. Indeed, government actions signalling policy certainty are a prerequisite for business to change.
My noble friend Lady Randerson also impressed on us the importance of tackling transport emissions, and I shall end with a few words about a simple, proven, popular and cheap measure that the Government could take which would signal their willingness to encourage the behaviour change needed to get more people out of their cars and walking or cycling instead. Introducing 20 mph speed limits on roads where people live and work has been shown to do just that. Introducing such a limit in one fell swoop would reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, reduce fine particulate matter from brake and tyre wear, reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured and reduce demand on the national grid. Surely this is a measure that is a compelling candidate for encouraging people to embrace behaviour change.
My Lords, when we consider the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, the first priority is of course to examine ourselves and our actions before we reflect on the behaviour of others and the institutions and organisations that dictate to the population as a whole.
All of us here are no doubt seeking ways to reduce our own contribution to that pollution, although I admit to not being very good at it. When I recently decided to replace my car, I opted to buy a hybrid vehicle that can be plugged in to give it a greener and greater range. My journeys to London allowed me to feel just a bit better in my conscience—only to be somewhat disappointed on arrival when I found that within the Parliamentary Estate there are no real charging facilities for hybrid or electric vehicles. How can we lecture the country on the benefits of electric vehicles when not only are recharging points around the country currently rather uncertain and inadequate, but legislators do not themselves have such facilities?
In some people’s opinion, even purchasing a new car might be regarded as a negative act. You hear, “What about all the pollution and emissions that are produced in the manufacturing process?” Then there are those who refuse to make any changes in their behaviour and lifestyle because, as they say, “Why should the UK move to net zero, with all the costs and inconveniences, if other countries in the developing world are not?” In a way they have a point, but I happen to think that the situation with climate change and our contribution demands action and that leading the way is fully justifiable as long as we are also willing to help others to follow.
Large countries such as India and China, and even the USA, may well be behind some, but the speed with which they are moving technologically and scientifically ensures that they will catch up and even overtake us soon in this area of policy. Yes, there may still be coal-fired power stations in China, but its embrace of new and greener means of power generation and advanced technology in the field of electronics and electric transport, as well as its use of alternative energy such as solar, wind, wave and hydro power, is progressing at a very fast rate. The resources being committed by China and other developing nations to research, including into hydrogen power, are extensive, and the joint projects between our research institutions and universities and theirs are most likely to produce exciting innovation, all helping us to meet our targets.
I will not talk about COP 26 as there are others speaking today who know much more about the specific aims and programme, but I am proud that the UK is hosting that event.
My remarks so far have been reasonably positive, but even the most sincere declarations and aims of the UK and the international community are pretty pointless unless we gear up our progress. Time is not on our side, and those of us who are now of a certain age must ensure that our actions safeguard the futures of our children and grandchildren.
So where are the problems, and where are the actions after all the promises by government? Where, for instance, is the full heat and buildings strategy? Already, resistance is building up in the media to heat pumps replacing gas boilers and the like. Where is the strategy to get full public engagement and support, as has been referred to by other speakers? It is promised before the COP 26 conference, and we certainly need that to make progress. We also need the extra educational elements put in place for our young people.
Where is the evidence post Covid on the balance between emissions caused by more working from home and non-residential work? Have the Government assessed this, taking into account all aspects, including the inevitable pollution, referred to by a number of noble Lords, caused by attendant travel?
Where is the wholehearted support for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant for our Planet scheme? It is not quite “Dig for Victory”, but it is worthy of support. The campaign reminds us that one tree planted today will remove one tonne of carbon from the air over 40 years.
Where is the real action necessary to roll out effective carbon capture and storage? My region of Yorkshire is a perfect example of where and how such schemes could be used to great advantage, but we have been talking about this for years. When I was MP for Leeds back in the 1990s, a clear plan was provided by the then Conservative Government. It was pushed forward by the new Labour Government, but they did little more. There I was for 17 years, and EU money was available—but what did we actually do about it?
Frankly, there are many areas where we have been promised more and more but nothing has happened. However, I have lots of confidence that my noble friend the Minister, whom I know well, will now assume the role of a modern Action Man. COP 26 will be important, but we need to ensure that all the no doubt fine words that we are waiting to hear from my noble friend a little later, and the promises of Governments of all complexions, are followed up with real and meaningful outcomes.
Finally, I ask: is my noble friend confident that the international structures are now in place to monitor and enforce the outcomes? Is he confident, in the new role that I have given him of our Action Man on the environment, that he can take our citizens with him and with us? That is vital on this urgent mission.
My Lords, I too am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for her introduction and for giving us this debate. I think we need to spend more time on this question because effecting behavioural change, as many of us know, is very difficult indeed.
The biggest change in my lifetime that affected most people was the Second World War, which brought great social changes but also took millions of people off the planet. The next big change that I remember was under Ted Heath’s Government, when we had a three-day week; for the first time in my life we were living without electricity and had candles in the house. That was major behavioural change. The winter of discontent in 1979, which emerged from my old background of the trade union movement, led to a very big change because we got Mrs Thatcher—and without doubt she effected change in the behaviour of the nation in quite a big way.
However, we have now just come out of the biggest change, in my experience, in our behaviour, through Covid. It would be worth while to reflect on what Covid was all about—what its purpose and meaning is. We have not had that debate. My view is that Covid is here to reduce the numbers on the planet. The numbers have gone down, but perhaps not on the scale that might have been anticipated if we had not had agility and the brains to find the vaccines and so on.
However, it gives us a chance to review what gross national product and growth are all about and whether we can continue to grow in the way that we have in the past—or whether this gives an opportunity to reflect and look for a different direction. We have to look at some of the papers that have been produced by the Government on the major issues: what we eat and how we live at home. Covid has left people working at home—should we have more people working at home? I think the party that produces a policy of allowing people to work at home will get a lot of support, which will grow. Factories have disappeared; offices will disappear. Technology is moving at pace. What the mobile phone has done within a short space of time is absolutely phenomenal, and it is getting faster and faster all the time. My faith is in the youth, not in our age group.
I live in an area where we can change nothing. Since 2015, I have been trying to get them to install charging points for electric cars, but we are still no further forward. People have been working from home, and we have roof spaces and attics that can be converted into rooms and used, but no one will permit anyone to have a window to let fresh air or light into these additional spaces. We need to change the tiles on the roofs so that we have solar panels everywhere—yet we have planning rules that completely prohibit that. This all needs to be reviewed, if we are going to start to move in a different direction.
We need to talk about the numbers on the planet as well. This is controversial. Bill Gates raised this some years ago and said that the easiest solution to the world’s problems is to take 3 billion people out. Of course, he quickly withdrew that, but we need to recognise that we cannot continue to grow at the current pace. We are heading for 10 billion people, and it is quite unsustainable. We have to start talking about policies in which people will limit the number of children that they have.
The Chinese are planning: they need a 5% increase in the Chinese population. This would be a phenomenal problem in terms of climate change, so we need to get people at COP talking about the world population and whether we can reduce it. We need free contraception in order to limit this. We also need the rules on abortion that have been introduced and changed during Covid to continue so that there is greater freedom for that from home.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, will be doing, we need to review the end-of-life issue. There was no mercy in watching some of those people die on machines in an awful state. There is nothing Christian about that. We should look for ways in which we can exercise true mercy. If people want to go, they should be permitted to go. We have the technology for it. Millions of people take a sleeping tablet every night because they cannot sleep, and, if people want to end their lives, they should have a right to have a tablet to come to an end, rather than face the awful lives that you can experience when we spend all our time trying to extend life, rather than focusing on the quality of it.
That is the kind of change that we need to try to make, in economic terms: moving more into quality than quantity. There are many areas in which we can do it that would be beneficial and that the people would be willing to embrace, if it was presented in an educational and sensible way. So I hope that we can have something more radical than we have experienced so far in the debate on climate change—because water and fire will take so many people out if we do not take it seriously and move quickly on it.
My Lords, I am very happy and glad to support this Motion, and I am equally glad to have listened to and learned from other noble Lords’ speeches on this crucial issue.
There is general agreement that a serious public engagement programme is necessary—every serious institution is urging this—for one simple reason: 62% of remaining emissions reductions will rely, to some extent, on individual choices and behaviour. The key issues of how we travel, what we eat and what we buy are made by not just institutions but individual people in and for their personal lives. They will need to be persuaded of this, brought to see that they have a personal responsibility to respond to it and motivated to do something about it.
So, first of all, people will need to be given accurate information about the challenge and clear guidance about what they, as an individual, might be able to do in response. The background picture that we have at the moment is highly unsatisfactory, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, brought out. People are generally aware about the impact of climate change but misinformed about the main causes of it, hazy about what should be done and confused about how to go about it. Concern about climate change is high: some 80% say that they are concerned and 63% think that changes affecting the UK will continue to do so. However, only 14% indicated that they knew a lot or a fair amount, and overall awareness has decreased, amazingly, over the last year. Only 26% of people asked had made any change in their own behaviour. Particularly concerning is the fact that, while young people are the age group most likely to be concerned about climate change, they are also the age group that is least likely to act upon it. So there is a huge gap between a general awareness of this issue and any kind of meaningful engagement with it by the majority of the population.
For people to be so engaged, the first requirement is clear and accurate information. Leaving aside the deliberate misinformation that is around, there are some basic misconceptions: as we know, many people think that recycling will be a key player in reductions, but, while it is vital for a whole range of reasons, it only accounts for 0.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. Some 50% of people think that using less energy at home is crucial. This is important, but it is actually less significant than reducing the amount of meat eaten. Only 15% think that avoiding meat is a major factor, and only 6% think that eating fewer dairy products is—but the CCC had recommended a 35% reduction in meat and dairy by 2050 if the net-zero target is to be achieved. Few responding to the survey realised that the most important thing that they could do would actually be to have one fewer child, accounting for 58.6 tonnes a year, not own a car, accounting for 2.4 tonnes a year, and avoid one long-distance flight, accounting for 1.6 tonnes a year.
So the first essential thing is accurate information, clearly set out; then, we want people to respond. However, if someone actually wants to do something about it, confusion can quickly set in. For example, try looking up installing solar panels, or switching from a gas boiler to one that emits less carbon dioxide, on the internet, and it is very difficult to disentangle what help the Government might be offering and what a range of commercial organisations are trying to sell you. For a start, I would like to see a short pamphlet sent to every household in the UK with some basic agreed facts about the challenge of climate change, what an individual might do in response and what help the Government might give to help them to respond.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, rightly reminded us of the very serious problem of emissions in the Asian countries, but surely the two approaches—doing what we can in our own sphere and encouraging those Asian countries to move into carbon capture and storage or to alternative forms—are not mutually exclusive. Surely we have a responsibility to do what we can in our own immediate sphere of influence.
Questions to do with diet, use of energy at home, how we travel and what we consume affect us all. Every day, we make decisions in relation to them that will affect the kind of world that our grandchildren and their children will grow up in.
But there is also another area that is surprisingly absent from some of the briefing material that we have been receiving: the use of our savings, if we are lucky enough to have them. How we invest our money is of crucial significance, and I am glad to say that the Church of England actively engages in companies that it invests in, with a policy of disinvesting if certain rates of emissions reductions are not reached by certain dates.
What the Government should do is essential, but this by itself is not enough. As we know, the Government are much less trusted than a whole range of other organisations and people, and they must mobilise that whole range of other organisations and people. A good example of this was the recent joint statement by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, with its theme, “Choose life”. This is a crucial issue and I very much look forward to the Government’s response.
My Lords, I am delighted to contribute to what has been an excellent debate and I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on leading the debate and choosing such a timely moment to do so. I am slightly confused, because I had the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, down as being the action man for the environment, so I hope we are not going to see interdepartmental strife as to who the true advocate for environmental measures in this context will be. But as my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate identified, we are looking to see joined-up government here.
A number of noble Lords have mentioned new boilers in new houses. We have been promised them, but just not yet—I think by 2030. That begs the question of what is going to happen to those new houses that do not have those boilers and at whose cost will refitting the boilers be.
What I took mostly from the introductory remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was how to involve the public, not just through schools, universities and higher education, but each and every one of us as we lead our daily lives.
My noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate has bought a hybrid. I was foolish enough, 20 or 30 years ago, to buy my first diesel car because the then Government said that this was the way forward and we were all invited to drive not just SUVs but 4x4s. If you live in the rural part of North Yorkshire that I do and want to visit your family at Christmas, 40 minutes away, you often have six inches of snow to go through. With my first purchase of a diesel car, I was then faced with the fact that fuel duty was very high and the car tax had increased, so I am going to let others play guinea pig with the hybrid and electric cars until such a time that we have sufficient power points. I understand the Government are now thinking of turning off the power for powering up electric cars for nine hours overnight; I think that is going to cause enormous problems. I hope my noble friend will take the opportunity from the Front Bench to show that that is not the case.
I have been heavily involved with the issue of flooding, not just as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Water Group but as vice-chair of the Association of Drainage Authorities and, in my previous life, as chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and, before that, as shadow Minister, as well as MP for the Vale of York, which was prone to substantial flooding. I have followed the flooding events that my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, referred to and the impact that floods can have.
What hugely disappointed me this week was that water companies came up with a formula to stop surface water flooding going into the combined drains, foul drains and every form of drain in the event of a major surface water flood and, potentially—as we know happens on many occasions—coming into people’s homes and forcing them out for up to six months while the public health issue of sewage is removed. This was such a simple measure to make homes safer, more resilient and resistant to floods, but we could not even get agreement in the House. I think we have a long way to go in this regard.
I think it was under the Blair Government that there were three reviews: the Cave review on competition policy in water, the Pitt review on flooding and the Anna Walker review on water efficiency. We now have retail competition in water, particularly in Scotland, where it was led, and to a certain extent in England. We have more or less implemented nearly all the Pitt recommendations, apart from the most crucial one of ending the automatic right for water companies to have to connect. This means that, in times of flood, as I mentioned earlier, floodwater and sewage is taken not just into rivers but into people’s homes as well.
The often-overlooked recommendations of the Anna Walker review strike a chord with the remarks from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on how it will benefit the public. One of those was a very simple measure to, in a household of, say, four, heat up and use only the water that you need, rather than leaving the hot water on the whole time. I regret that the Walker review never really got any traction and I hope that we can revisit those recommendations.
I live in a deeply rural farming community. Farmers want to play their part and we can help by substituting imports for locally produced food. Here, I would like to give a shout out to Shepherds Purse Cheeses, the makers of which live just across the field from us and are doing a very good job of making sure we eat more Mrs Bell’s Blue rather than Roquefort. So there is a lot that each and every one of us can do.
I end with a plea to my noble friend for more joined-up government between the departments in question: BEIS, Defra and MHCLG. More especially, when we pass legislation such as the Agriculture Act, the Trade Act and eventually the Environment Bill and the planning Bill, we need to ensure that all the recommendations reflect the issues we have discussed this afternoon.
My Lords, I declare my interest in the register as chair of the advisory board of Weber Shandwick UK. I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for bringing this important debate and all noble Lords for their contributions to it. As other noble Lords have said, it is particularly timely as we look forward to COP 26 in November, when we as a country have a clear responsibility to show leadership. I also thank all the organisations that have briefed us. I very much endorse the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, for a portal on which all these things could easily be accessed by us—and perhaps more importantly, they could be on the register.
Sadly, on the issue of the public engagement that will be needed to achieve the behaviour change required to achieve net zero, our Government are failing to show leadership in the UK, let alone in the world. Worse, as my noble friend Lady Randerson said, the Government are promulgating the fantasy that we do not have to significantly change behaviour in, for example, transport, because technology will take care of it—the cake-and-eat-it approach. That just will not wash, given what we face.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned, Article 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement both set out responsibilities on the parties to take to engage their citizens and measures to enhance climate education and awareness. The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made a compelling point on the importance of education in this process.
At this point I want to take on some of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. He made an attack on XR, which he said had done untold damage to the issue of the climate. I disagree with some of the tactics of XR, but I understand the reason for them. As I said in the debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill earlier this week, the reason XR and others are taking action on the streets is the reckless failure of this Parliament to take sufficiently urgent action to address the climate emergency, and the years of deniers and now delayers. I also reject his view that we cannot as a country have influence and that it is all somehow hopeless.
In 1940, when Britain stood almost alone against fascism, we did not say, “We cannot do this because it is too expensive, no one else is doing it and we will probably be defeated anyway.” Actually, some people did say that, but thankfully they were not heeded. Instead, we recognised that we faced an existential threat and had to do whatever was necessary to counter it, whatever the cost. We had to lead the world until others stepped forward to join us in the fight. Thank God that approach was taken.
As I have said, lack of public awareness of the scale of the challenge we face and the changes we have to make is a real problem, but there is also a lack of understanding of the benefits that can accrue to our economy and our quality of life. It really is the responsibility of all of us, but particularly of the Government, to take the lead in engaging the public.
I agree with a lot of what the noble Lord says, but he has not quite understood my message—of course, that is my fault for not having the time or the clarity. The contribution this nation ought to be making is going to be very expensive and very extensive and could be very effective. What I am arguing is that the contribution we are making now—and putting the resources where we are, like removing gas boilers from 27 million homes—is not the way to do it. Vast resources are required to be transferred to the developing world from us—$100 billion has been mentioned and probably at least one nought should be added. It is not a question of not contributing; it is a question of making the right contribution.
I thank the noble Lord for his intervention and I take his point, but we have to do some of the things in regard to decarbonising our homes as well. We face a vast challenge and we cannot duck any of it. I hope that he therefore very much supports the position of my party and of many Peers in this House, which was absolutely against the cut in the 0.7% of GNI going to those economies that he mentions.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and other Peers have mentioned, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change argued in its excellent report on the role of behaviour change in delivering net zero that we need to focus very much on key measures that people need to take, and not to overwhelm them with all the measures it would be possible to take. Among those are reducing car and air travel and, as other noble Lords have mentioned, a cut in dairy and meat consumption, which is often not understood. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, shared some of the figures that were set out in that report—I think they were BEIS figures originally—on public attitudes and public understanding, and they show a great deal that needs to be done. I think his suggestion of a simple public information document to every household to start this process would be a good thing.
My noble friend Lady Sheehan referred to the Climate Change Committee report that argued that public engagement should be an absolutely key priority for government. According to that report, 62% of measures that are needed to reach net zero require change to public behaviours and we need a meaningful effort to engage across all areas of the country, particularly those dependent on high carbon-emitting industry. We need to ensure that there are a diverse range of messengers giving these messages. They have to be not just us as government or organisations talking down to people; they have to be about interactive communications and participatory engagement.
We all have a role in changing our behaviour—government do, business does and academia does. Perhaps most importantly or very significantly in the business world is the finance industry. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, mentioned what we can do, and what organisations such as the Church of England do, in terms of investments, but we really need the finance industry and the regulators to put in place measures to ensure that capital does not continue to be misallocated, as it is now, towards those industries that threaten our climate and instead is allocated to those industries that can help rescue us from the situation we find ourselves in.
The difficulty we have is that, given the importance of behaviour change and given its vital role in reaching the Government’s targets, which the Government acknowledge, it is deeply alarming that the Government appear to have no strategy at all. I reinforce the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone: can the Minister tell us whether such a strategy will be in the net-zero strategy, because it is clearly a priority? We also need to learn from international partners. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned some countries, including a domestic example in Scotland, but our COP 26 partner, Italy, is a leader in public engagement on this subject and we should learn from it. We should also learn from and work with local government, because it is a trusted partner that can help to deliver some of those measures on the ground.
As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said, we cannot just expect people to change their behaviour if we do not give them the opportunity to do so. There are so many policies that need to change if the Government are to allow people to make the changes they often want to make. You might want to change your car to an EV but you do not have off-street parking and there are no chargers on your street, or if you use a commercial charger, it costs you six times as much as if it is from your domestic electricity supply. There are all sorts of things like that that need to be fixed as well.
We all know that climate change is not waiting on our procrastination; it is taking advantage of it. We also know that public engagement and awareness campaigns cannot be effective overnight, but more often take a period of years, which underscores the urgency of action now. The Government need to get on with this, to correct their lack of strategy and to do so now. They need to show a lead in this country and a lead in the world.
Once again, this has been a very interesting and stimulating debate with many notable contributions right across the House. Overall, there has been repeated recognition that the achievement of net zero can be accomplished only if it is accompanied by the public embracing behaviour change in their everyday lives. Certainly, the necessity for action is ever more widely recognised and expressed through the ever more frequent reporting of extraordinary weather events all around the globe.
My noble friend Lady Blackstone introduced the debate by setting out the case for a centrally led strategy for engagement in facilitating behaviour change. Many contributions have drawn attention to the many reports from leading agencies. The International Energy Agency has said that behaviour change plays a role in almost two-thirds of emission reductions. The Energy Research Partnership points out that, with motivation through multiple channels, interventions will be required through education, incentives and affordable low-carbon alternatives to change deep-seated habits that become embedded as societal norms. There is no question that the British people, especially our developing young people, are alarmed by the climate crisis and wish to engage.
The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that decisive intervention by the Government, local authorities and agencies can achieve significant shifts in behaviour. By comparison to the pandemic, the effects of climate change have still largely to be felt to affect most people’s daily lives. Behaviour change to embrace a net-zero lifestyle will require a cultural revolution of information-driven decision-making; visible peer pressure equal to the effect experienced following the smoking ban; and strong, coherent government policies across all departments and services.
Various Climate Change Committee reports and commissions from research bodies and universities indicate that more than 40% of the abatement necessary involves some degree of consumer change, through their choices, to reduce demand and improve efficiencies. Many examples have been promoted today. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn is right in his analysis that people want to feel part of the solution and not the problem. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has identified mixed messages and confusing price signals, which can only bring delay and frustration with unintended consequences. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, spoke of the unco-ordinated right and left hands of government, with its encouragement and subsidy of fossil fuels. Indeed, all of us send signals through our own consumption patterns, as expressed correctly by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope. For every pull forward, there arises a push back from another interest lobby.
Perhaps the hardest behavioural change to achieve is that of government itself. The biggest challenge no longer comes from climate deniers; it comes from climate dither and delay. It comes from a scattergun list of points in a plan, instead of a comprehensive set of strategies that sets out all the Government’s policies in a coherent framework. The Minister may claim to have undertaken to address quite a few of these acknowledged gaps, which I respect, from the difficult hydrogen strategy, published in the Recess, to the critically important decarbonisation of transport plan. However, the acceleration of climate change underlines every week the urgency of this decisive decade for change. With five weeks remaining before the opening of COP 26, the Government have yet to publish the equally important heat and buildings strategy, the Treasury’s finance plan and, most critically, the net-zero strategy, where the Minister identified in June that the Government would communicate their approach to public engagement and support the public to make green choices. The Public Accounts Committee identified that the Government have
“no coordinated … messaging about the changes and choices people will need to make” and identified many critical areas where they needed to engage, from central governance to local authorities, to communicate effectively. The Government need to switch from targets without delivery and rhetoric without the reality that faces households and families in their everyday activity.
The Government can now be congratulated that, in 2019, they finally recognised that international aviation and shipping need to be included in the UK’s net-zero calculations. However, transport remains the biggest source of emissions where the least progress has been made across the country and the most attention by the wider public is needed. The Government have pulled forward the phase-out date for new diesel and petrol cars to 2030 and, in support, the Climate Change Committee has identified that 48% of cars sold by 2025 should be electric vehicles. However, we are currently way off that. In their decarbonisation of transport strategy, the Government reported that less than 15% of cars sold in July this year were EVs. The biggest challenge and barrier to change for an eager population comes from affordability and lack of infrastructure. The CMA has expressed concern about the unequal and patchy rollout of charge points. Policy needs to recognise these barriers, identify enablers and target interventions accordingly, such as tiered vehicle scrappage schemes weighted in favour of essential car users and the lower-paid. Behaviour change modelling needs to become embedded in departmental procedures and policies. What plans do the Government have to meet the issue of affordability to increase the uptake of EVs?
The need for as yet nascent technologies, such as hydrogen, has also been identified as essential for public transport such as buses and trains, and indeed aviation, and is already part of government plans. Hydrogen as a fuel also has applications to the decarbonisation of gas, with a link across to another key area of everyday life, the nation’s housing stock. As working from home has become a clear behavioural change for so many, the opportunity must not be lost from the many aspects of changing work patterns. As far back as 2018, the National Infrastructure Commission identified energy efficiency as a clear imperative in reducing demand and improving homes. It is easily said but, as many Administrations have identified, so difficult to attain. The green homes grant scheme, supposedly so obvious yet rushed in with limited finance and hopelessly short timetables, was doomed to failure. The National Audit Office revealed last week that just 20% of the inadequate £1.5 billion was spent. The total spend on home improvements is anticipated to be £314 million, but with a massive £50.5 million spent on administration. What lessons will the Government draw from this sorry experience? How do they propose to recalibrate their plans for home improvements, and will these be incorporated into and announced along with the heat and buildings strategy?
I have mentioned the hydrogen strategy as vital in the urgency to decarbonise gas in the heating of homes, where progressive regionalised introduction has been identified as the best transitional approach. In setting future dates for the compulsory introduction of hydrogen-ready boilers for all new installations, perhaps the pricing disadvantage inherent in this new option is a key area to be addressed. Will the Minister raise the public’s awareness of the urgency of this transition by mandating all quotations for new boilers to include the hydrogen-ready option alongside the conventional replacement cost?
The alternative of heat pumps is also identified as being more costly than conventional choices. The Government will need clearly to recognise that cost barriers remain high in the public’s mind when embracing renewables and sustainable long-term solutions. The rising cost of energy for this winter and the disruption of the interconnectors from France have received wide- spread notice. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, mentioned the finance industry. With interest rates on mortgages having fallen back to less than 1%, the cost of the net-zero challenge needs to meet this competitive threshold. Does the Minister expect the Treasury’s net-zero finance plans to be ready for COP 26 or more likely to be delayed until the autumn Statement?
The challenges to be faced remain substantive, yet everything is impossible until it happens. Can the Minister give the House an update on the Government’s objective to announce international investment commitments totalling £100 billion per year from developed countries at COP 26? Can he report a successful response from the US, and is China included in this designation? These two nations remain the biggest sources of climate change emissions. What investment in this fund is planned by the United Kingdom Government and how will it be spent, and with what priorities? This initiative would set a serious benchmark towards world- wide progress.
My Lords, I want first to express my appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for her excellent contribution and for securing this debate on this extremely important subject. There were some splendid contributions from all sides of the House, and I hope to address as many of the points raised as possible.
There is no doubt that achieving our net-zero target will be a shared endeavour, requiring action from everyone in society—from people, businesses and government. This Government absolutely accept this and are determined for the UK to play its part in upholding the Paris Agreement and our net-zero commitment, particularly in the run-up to COP 26. The Government agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that net zero can be achieved only through engagement with the public and changing behaviours. As he observed, we are also publishing other world-leading strategies, such as the hydrogen strategy and the transport decarbonisation plan. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that the Government share her concern about the urgency of tackling climate change. I particularly liked her quote that there is no silver bullet and only silver buckshot—I know that she will be opposed to shooting, but I liked the analogy anyway.
In June 2021, the UK Government set the sixth carbon budget at 965 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is a world-leading target which will see a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 compared to those in 1990. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, pointed out, this is how the Government intend to lead by example on climate change. This target is in line with the latest science, as the level recommended by our expert advisers at the Climate Change Committee, and consistent with the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees centigrade and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees centigrade. The target would achieve well over half of the required emissions reductions from now to 2050 in the next 15 years.
This is a huge commitment which the Government are working flat out to achieve. Already our emissions are down by almost 44% across the last 30 years, and our economy has grown by 78% in that same period. If the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, does not like the economic growth, perhaps she will like the emissions reductions we have managed to achieve at the same time. The net-zero strategy, which we will publish ahead of COP 26—a number of noble Lords asked me about that—will set out our vision for transitioning to a net-zero economy. This strategy will build on ambitious plans already published in the past 12 months across key sectors of the economy, including the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, which mobilises £12 billion of government investment, the energy White Paper, the transport decarbonisation plan, the industrial decarbonisation strategy and the hydrogen strategy.
These strategies deliver on many of the recommendations made by Climate Assembly UK, which a number of noble Lords referred to. The assembly called for a green recovery; the 10-point plan is the Government’s plan for a green recovery, delivering high-skilled green jobs. The assembly called for more wind and solar power; we will quadruple the capacity of offshore wind to 40 gigawatts by 2030. The assembly called for a faster transition to net-zero emissions vehicles; we will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. The assembly called for the Government to invest in low-carbon buses and trains; this plan commits to a £4.2 billion investment in city public transport and £5 billion on buses, cycling and walking. The assembly called for the Government to speed up progress on low-carbon aviation—I know this is of particular interest to my noble friend Lord Kirkhope; this plan commits to research projects for zero-emissions planes and sustainable aviation fuels. The assembly recommended maintaining and restoring our natural environment; our plan committed to £40 million for a second round of the green recovery challenge fund.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn referred to the importance of enabling everyone in society to contribute to achieving the net-zero target. I agree with him. We want to make it easier and more affordable for people to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle while at the same time maintaining freedom of choice and fairness. These are two of the key principles also recommended by Climate Assembly UK. The Government are already taking steps to do exactly this.
For example, we are continuing to engage with key cycling and walking organisations to develop a behavioural change campaign aligned with our cycling and walking investment strategy action plan. We have funded digital tools that can support people in reducing their carbon footprint, including the Simple Energy Advice service, which can help people reduce energy use in their home, and the “Go Ultra Low” website, which provides information and advice on electric vehicles. We are supporting motorists buying electric vehicles through the plug-in car grant, which provides up to £2,500 for those making the switch to electric cars—I hope my noble friend Lord Kirkhope was able to take advantage of this Government’s generosity for his new purchase. As well as this, in partnership with industry we have supported the installation of nearly 25,000 publicly available charging devices in what is now one of the largest networks in Europe.
The forthcoming food strategy White Paper will build on existing work across government and identify new opportunities to make the food system healthier, more sustainable, more resilient and more accessible for those across the United Kingdom. Defra has also committed to a substantial update of the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services, which provide a framework of mandatory and best practice standards for public sector procurers. This update will look to strengthen the emphasis on local procurement, SMEs, high procurement standards and sustainable, healthy produce.
Reaching net zero will require not only changes to our energy systems and substantial new low-carbon infrastructure but shifts, as individuals, in how we travel, what we buy and how we use energy in our homes. Given this, we will need to engage with the public on the changes required to deliver this ambition and listen very closely to their feedback. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked whether we could create a national debate on how everyone can contribute to the country achieving net zero, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, stressed the importance of informing people about it. To respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, in the net-zero strategy, which will be published ahead of COP 26, we will communicate our approach to public engagement and supporting the public to make green choices.
Many people from all over the UK are already doing their bit on climate change. With the Together for Our Planet campaign we aim to celebrate this and inspire more people to join them. The campaign is building momentum in the lead-up to COP 26 by showcasing how people across the United Kingdom are going one step greener to tackle climate change. We are working across government and with numerous commercial partners. Our 26 “One Step Greener” champions and campaign will show how taking one step can have a positive impact on the environment, encouraging the general public also to do their bit, however large or small. We are also working with small businesses across the UK to support their journey towards becoming greener and more sustainable. This aims to create a mass movement of small green steps across the country in the lead-up to COP 26 to raise awareness of climate issues and launch a powerful legacy campaign to drive long-term behavioural change.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, stressed the importance of empowering citizens to hold the Government to account and share their views. We have already increased our engagement with the public on policies for net zero. Since 2019, we have run deliberative dialogues on a range of net-zero topics, including net-zero societal change, homes and heating, hydrogen and the transport decarbonisation plan. I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that we will continue to monitor and evaluate public engagement to ensure effectiveness. We already track public views on climate change on a regular basis, for example through the BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker, which is published every quarter.
The noble Baroness also asked how we can engage with hard-to-reach citizens. BEIS has commissioned research from the Carbon Trust, with leading academics, which is exploring how the UK can reach net zero in a fair, socially inclusive way. I know this will also be of interest to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. A key part of this will be advice and recommendations on how we best ensure that vulnerable and underrepresented groups can have their voices heard. Furthermore, findings from Climate Assembly UK have formed a valuable addition to the Government’s evidence base on assessing the UK public’s understanding, attitudes and perceptions around net zero.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the Government have assessed work on climate change assemblies undertaken in countries such as Scotland and France. I can confirm that we have been closely monitoring national and local citizens’ assemblies and officials have met the organisers and facilitators of these initiatives. In September 2020, we invited the Climate Assembly UK expert leads to present the assembly’s findings to officials. Over 400 officials attended these briefings.
In the lead-up to COP 26, as I have said, we will publish a comprehensive net-zero strategy which sets out the Government’s vision for transitioning to a net-zero economy, making the most of the new growth and employment opportunities across the UK. My noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked whether the net-zero strategy will include a public engagement strategy. This also addresses the points of the noble Lord, Lord Oates. I confirm again that, through this strategy, we will communicate our approach on public engagement, supporting the public to make green choices. The strategy will mark an important moment, where our priority shifts towards setting out a clear plan for delivery, which will allow us to look beyond COP, outlining a sustained effort to tackle climate change in the longer term.
To address the points raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Bull, the national curriculum provides the knowledge that pupils need to help address climate change in the future, while schools have the autonomy to go into as much depth on these subjects as they see fit. In citizenship, pupils are taught about the wider world and the interdependence of communities within it. At primary school, pupils are taught about what improves and harms their local, natural and built environments. More detailed content on climate change is included in geography and science. Certainly I have been receiving in my postbag an increasing number of letters that children have written in their classrooms. DfE has established a Sustainability and Climate Change Unit, which is preparing a change strategy. This will likely look at topics such as education and skills for a changing world, taking into account net zero, resilience to climate change and how to create a better environment for future generations.
In addition, we established a Green Jobs Taskforce, working with industry, unions and skills providers to advise on how we can develop plans for new, long-term, good-quality green jobs, and support workers to transition from high-carbon sectors. Its independent report, published in July, will feed into and inform our net-zero strategy.
The Government are committed to publishing a heat and building strategy later this year; I think it was my noble friend Lord Kirkhope who asked me about that. The strategy will set a comprehensive set of actions that will set the way for net zero in heat and buildings by 2050, with a real focus on the action needed in this decade to reach our interim targets.
Moving on to transport—a topic raised particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and others—we published the first plan in the world to set transport on a path to net zero by 2050: the transport decarbonisation plan. Enabling people to use public transport, to walk or to cycle is one of the plan’s six strategic priorities. Backed by a £2 billion package of investment, we are committed to establishing a world-class cycling and walking network in England by 2040, delivering on the Prime Minister’s bold vision that he announced last summer. This plan also commits that we will deliver a net-zero rail network by 2050, with sustained carbon reductions in rail along the way, by supporting new technologies such as hydrogen or battery trains and removing diesel-only trains. We also want to get more people on to trains, and we are building extra capacity on the network and working with industry to modernise fares, ticketing and retail to encourage a shift to rail.
To address the points raised by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford on international leadership, in addition to the action we are taking at home, we remain committed to demonstrating global leadership in tackling climate change. It is a global challenge and, of course, no country can tackle it alone. There is a clear need for countries across the world to do more. We have strong relationships with key emitters—including India and China—on climate, and we work closely with their Governments on a range of mutually beneficial programmes, with the aim of reducing emissions while also improving their resilience to climate change. Of course, we will continue to push for more ambition globally as the host of COP 26.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for his views on the quality of life and how net zero will be beneficial for all. He referred to the importance of enabling youth to drive climate action, and I agree: it will be key to listen to their concerns. Therefore, we have a dedicated youth engagement team which is co-ordinating the UK Government’s strategy to ensure that youth voices are heard at COP 26 and in its legacy.
Inclusive public engagement that gives representation to different groups’ diverse needs and interests, as well as their meaningful participation in decision-making, is vital to inform the design and implementation of successful net-zero policies. Public engagement can help build awareness, acceptability and uptake of sustainable behaviours over the longer term. Therefore, we are increasing our work on public engagement on net zero, both in communicating the challenge and giving people a say in shaping our future policies.
I hope I have been able to provide at least some reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister very much for his reply to this debate. He has indeed answered many of the questions put to him. He did not answer one question—of course, there are always some you do not have the time or the information for. I would be grateful if he could write to me and to others who have participated in this debate on what the budget for public engagement in order to change behaviour is—and, if there is not one, when there will be. I asked about this some months ago and was told that in due course we would be given the figures, but we have not been. I would be really grateful for that.
Secondly, I thank everybody who has participated in this debate. I am very grateful to all the speakers, many of whom made excellent contributions to what I think we have agreed is an important subject. There has been consensus around the House for much more effort to be put into changing public behaviour through genuine public engagement. A number of important points were made about the importance of the UK leading the way, which the Minister said we will do. It has also been quite correctly stated by several speakers that time is not on our side and that there is a danger of promising a lot and then delivering too little.
I was particularly glad to hear the Minister state quite categorically that we will monitor and evaluate the contribution the Government are making to developing public engagement and changing public behaviour. I have no doubt that we will want to come back to what the results of such monitoring and evaluation are and will return to this important subject in the coming months.