Climate change transition to net zero must be fair, UK MPs say

Report sets out ways to engage public, businesses and industry

An old central heating boiler (L) and a hydrogen boiler inside the Hydrogen Experience Centre in Apeldoorn on May 27, 2021, the hydrogen house of certification body Kiwa and energy company Alliander. The house serves as a training location for technicians, who can learn how residences can be powered by hydrogen.  - Netherlands OUT
 / AFP / ANP / Sem van der Wal

Britain must ensure its transition to net zero is underpinned by fairness, MPs said on Thursday.

The Climate Assembly UK: where are we now? report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee recommends deliberative democracy and public engagement and education, as explored by Climate Assembly UK, the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on climate change.

CAUK examined ways to achieve the government’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The report urges the government to ensure there is genuine consultation and engagement with the public, businesses and industry to drive forward efforts to decarbonise.

“At the heart of the CAUK proposals were the principles of public engagement and fairness, said Darren Jones, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

“There is a great opportunity to make the net-zero transition a positive experience. But the Government’s failure to engage the public means we risk people viewing the net-zero transition in a negative light and perceiving policy measures as being imposed.

“I hope the government will take heed of our report, formally accept the CAUK proposals as a basis to engage the wider public and not miss the opportunity of hosting COP26 to energise and motivate the British people about the net-zero opportunities ahead of us.”

The report finds the government’s public engagement initiatives to date, though welcome, are insufficient. It notes the Climate Change Committee and the Public Accounts Committee have both recently found that such efforts have been inadequate.

The report endorses the CCC’s call for the government to publish a net-zero Public Engagement Strategy, and to do so alongside the Net Zero Review. It recommends this include detailed plans for education and engagement, and that the government’s Net Zero Strategy sets out its plans for engagement on net-zero policies through citizens’ assemblies and citizens’ juries, among other methods.

The Beis Committee’s report notes that the government has not yet provided a full response to the CAUK’s report. It calls on the government to publish a comprehensive, point-by-point response, and to redouble its efforts to lead a joined-up approach to net zero with local authorities, business and citizens.

The report finds the inadequacy of cross-departmental co-ordination across the government in delivering net zero has been brought into sharp focus in the context of the UK’s Presidency of COP26.

Cross-departmental co-ordination will be the focus of the Beis Committee’s new inquiry into net-zero government.

Updated: July 8th 2021, 6:43 AM