Connor Nichols, Account Executive at Copper, argues that the UK needs to turn its net zero commitments into tangible action, including a comprehensive public engagement strategy that ensures the delivery of net zero is equitable.

As the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) parliamentary report points out, the UK is yet to release a comprehensive public engagement strategy in the three years since our net zero ambitions became law.

The Government should focus on this as a matter of urgency as it moves towards the delivery of its net zero commitments. Tangible action is required now to ensure the UK meets its targets and delivers a clean and prosperous future that is felt equally across the country.

Ambitious targets

In the last few years, and especially since COP26, there has been continued progress on tackling climate change. Over 70 countries around the world have set themselves net zero targets but the focus now needs to be on turning these pledges into tangible action.

With the current cost of living crisis echoing devastation across the world, it has made it ever more important for the international community to focus on the rollout of cheaper renewable energy to phase out dependence on fossil fuels which will decrease energy bills.

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to legally commit to the ambitious target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and has shown itself to be a world leader in addressing climate change. The recent British Energy Security Strategy built on commitments laid out in last year’s Net Zero Strategy including increasing the pace of wind deployment by 10GW, up to 50GW, and pledging billions towards energy independence through homegrown clean energy sources.

Theory into reality

The Government now needs to turn its legislative ambitions into reality and undertake a demonstrative effort to ensure targets become more than just words.

The journey to net zero will require changes that encompass most aspects of our everyday lives. This will extend to the way we commute, how we heat our homes and even what we eat.

Too much change or cost will generate public opposition that will make the UK’s climate ambitions near impossible to achieve. As Copper’s 2021 Public Attitudes to Net Zero and Infrastructure Report suggests, there is a lack of understanding and uncertainty over the costs of the net zero transition which has not been accounted for in Government policy.

The balance between supporting net zero but reducing cost is particularly fragile today as families and businesses across the UK face a difficult economic situation with tightening budgets, rising energy costs, and a reduced quality of life.

This has made the development of a comprehensive public engagement plan ever more crucial to support the delivery of net zero while accounting for the wants and needs of the public.

Developers at the forefront

The plan should be driven by developers of renewable energy and should focus on the involvement and education of individuals, groups and governmental bodies at every stage of decision making.

The Government needs to be transparent and communicate exactly what is being planned whilst ensuring costs and benefits are shared equally. This will support developers in their delivery of a net zero UK that works for the public.

An engagement plan will serve to inform the public how they can involve themselves in the net zero transition, including required changes in behaviour and the available channels that will allow them to express their opinions such as consultations and public events.

This will also feed back into the different levels of government, whether local, regional or national, to help them understand the part they will be required to play.

You can find more information on the public attitudes to net zero in our report.