Climate Assembly UK’s new report illustrates what regular people think about how to combat climate change from the way we travel to what we eat.

The UK has set itself an ambitious target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Simply put, this means achieving an overall balance between the pollution we produce, and the carbon  that is taken out of the atmosphere. It’s a big undertaking, and requires commitment from all sectors of society – government, businesses and individuals alike.

To help inform future legislation and to best understand the changes people are willing to make in order to achieve net zero, a group of Parliamentary committees set up the Citizen’s Climate Assembly. Over six weekends in spring 2020, 108 people – from all walks of life and shades of opinion – met to discuss what they believe the UK should be doing to meet its bold target. The Assembly’s final report has now been published, outlining recommendations for areas covering things like travel, food, energy and shopping.

Here’s what regular people say we should be doing to protect the environment and hit net zero – do you agree with them?

Travel on land

Transport, which includes cars, buses and trains, accounts for 23% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions overall.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030-2035 instead of 2040
  • Reduce the amount we use cars by 2-5% per decade
  • Provide grants for people and businesses to buy low carbon vehicles
  • Improve and invest in public transport

Travel by air

Air travel accounts for 7% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions overall. Crucially, emissions from flying have grown significantly in the last 30 years.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Scrap incentives that encourage people to fly more (such as air miles)
  • Implement a tax that increases as people fly further and more often
  • Promote and incentivise no-fly holidays
  • Invest in the development and use of new clean technologies for air travel

In the home

Around 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the residential sector. Reducing these emissions means changes to the use of heating, hot water and electricity in the home.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • A tailored approach towards alternative heating solutions, depending on where people are in the country and the homes they live in
  • Investment and promotion of zero carbon heating, such as heat networks
  • Changes to product standards to make products more energy efficient
  • A ban on sales of new gas boilers from 2030 or 2035

Food and land use

Around a tenth of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions currently come from farming and ways we use the land.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Food and drink products to be labelled to indicate associated emissions
  • Enforce low-carbon farming regulations, and create financial incentives for carbon sequestering (such as restoring peatland and planting trees)
  • Changing planning rules so food can be produced sustainably in a wider range of places
  • Promote the environmental benefits of a low meat and dairy diet to the public

What we buy

Everything we buy uses energy in some form, so our shopping habits are strongly linked to climate change.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Implement resource efficiency targets and standards for manufacturers
  • Label products with information about associated carbon emissions
  • Promote and increase recycling services and initiatives
  • Promote and support product-sharing and collaborative consumption services such as tool sharing

Electricity

How the UK generates its electricity is a central question on the path to net zero. The UK still produces a significant amount of its electricity from fossil fuels, particularly gas. This emits carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming and climate change.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Offshore wind, solar power and onshore wind must play a significant role in the UK’s journey to net zero
  • Biofuels, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage should not be considered central to the UK’s path to net zero.

Removing greenhouse gas

Achieving the UK’s climate change target requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, but reducing emissions alone will not be enough – we need to take steps to actively remove emissions from the atmosphere.

The Climate Assembly’s recommendations:

  • Support forests and better forest management
  • Restore and manage peatlands and wetlands
  • Use wood in construction
  • Enhance the storage of carbon in the soil

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The bottom line

Initiatives such as the Citizen’s Climate Change Assembly are vital in helping politicians understand how far people are prepared to make changes to mitigate the climate crisis – the results are amazing and confirm the value of people power in decision making . However, there’s a big difference between talk and action, so now’s the time to encourage elected leaders to start enacting change. You can help this happen by writing to your local MP and quoting the Climate Assembly’s report – people want change, so let’s make it happen!

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