Public backs moves on diets, transport and home heating to cut emissions – study

·4-min read

Making it easier to choose vegetarian options, better public transport, and a comprehensive charging network are among the ways the public wants to go green, research suggests.

A study which recruited nearly 20,000 people to use a “climate calculator” to find their preferred options for cutting greenhouse gases suggests popular choices could deliver even bigger cuts than the Government is planning.

And it would do so without hitting the lowest-income families in the pocket, according to a report from think tank Demos and conservation charity WWF.

The calculator lets users select their preferred options for reducing emissions by 2030 across areas including diet, flying, public transport and home heating, and see the impact it has on pollution, household budgets, jobs and health.

People had to work out how they would cut emissions 39% on 2019 levels by the end of the decade, to meet the Government’s target to cut greenhouse gases by 68% on 1990 levels by 2030 under its global commitments.

The report found the top choices were a carbon tax on polluting industry, with subsidies for them to invest in green technology, and better public transport co-ordinated by local government.

Also receiving some of the highest levels of approval – 93% – were food campaigns and support from Government and the industry to make plant-based diets easier to choose and cook, to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 10% per person.

Electric Mini charging
People want to see a comprehensive EV charging network (Yui Mok/PA)

And 91% of participants wanted to see a comprehensive UK-wide electric car and van charging network in place by 2028, the study found.

Almost as popular were some increases to flying costs, followed by some restrictions on cars in city centres and a reduction in the speed limit on motorways, more sustainable farming and conserving forests.

More than three-quarters of people (77%) who took part backed a much more ambitious approach to low-carbon heating in homes, with active government-led schemes to install more heat pumps and insulation, along with grants to cover the full cost for low-income households and low-interest loans.

All regions, income levels, supporters of different political parties and age groups converged on the same list of actions, with only limited variation in the amount of support for different policies from different sections of society, the report said.

The set of measures supported by the representative group of people using the calculator for the study would deliver a 42% reduction in emissions by 2030 – exceeding the Government target, it estimates.

The biggest cut to emissions would come from an ambitious approach on heating and electricity.

And it said the measures would cost wealthier households only £3.75 a week on average and those with an income of between £22,000 and £35,000 just £1.30 a week – while those on low incomes would be 85p a week better off.

The report suggests the policies supported by the public would generate a million jobs, improve health and air quality, and boost wildlife.

It warned that the most popular choices made by the public require the Government to take an active role in leading and managing the shift to the low-carbon economy, rather than leaving it up to markets, tax and regulation.

Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF UK, said: “The British public have chosen the future they want – one with green jobs, clean air and thriving nature – and which doesn’t hit the worst off in the pocket.

“This is within our grasp, but only if the UK Government listens and sets out a clear plan and strategy for getting there.

“We won’t forget that we’ve been promised a safer climate, for us and for the generations to come. If we act now, there is still a chance to shape a better and more resilient future.”

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive of Demos, said the Government needs to take the public with it to meet the climate targets and protect the environment.

“There is an overwhelming consensus of support behind solutions that would reduce carbon emissions beyond the UK’s targets, and that could create millions of jobs without leaving those on the lowest-incomes behind.

“With so much at stake and the political mandate to take bold action, the UK Government must listen to the public and urgently set out a strategy that will provide a greener, stronger and better future for us all.”

The report, funded by National Grid and ScottishPower, has been released as the Government prepares to publish its net-zero strategy for cutting emissions in the coming decades and ahead of hosting UN Cop26 climate talks.

People can explore their climate choices at https://climatecalculator.co.uk/

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