Lockdown lessons could cut carbon, says Climate Assembly

Many of the lockdown measures taken by Brits such as video conferencing and working from home could be implemented to help tackle climate change even after the threat of coronavirus has passed, the Climate Assembly UK has said.

The body was created earlier this year and features an intentionally diverse group of 110 Britons from across the country who are discussing how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach net zero by 2050.

While originally intended to meet in person, the group has moved online in recent weeks to continue discussions even during the lockdown

“With coronavirus, (the government) has had to act because they had no choice in the matter. With climate change, they need to act in the same way,” said Marc Robson, 46, a British Gas installer who is part of the citizens’ assembly, “people will die if we don’t do it”.

“And we all need to buy into this as well. It needs to be explained to the public that if we don’t change what we’re doing, it’s going to cost us, big time.”

The assembly members had been due to meet for a fourth and final weekend on March 20-21 but it was postponed due to restrictions introduced to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Now, 107 members of the assembly are due to participate in a series of three online weekends running from mid-April to late May, after participants showed “sustained interest” in completing their work, organisers said.

It is expected to submit its recommendations to the government over the summer on how Britain should meet a legally binding goal to cut its climate-heating emissions to net zero by 2050.

The assembly members have now said that the current lockdown could be seen as a “test run” for the potential climate-smart shifts they had been discussing.

“This has opened up my mind that we can make these changes, like working at home,” Robson told the Reuters news agency.

Ibrahim Wali, a physician based in Surrey, said he had been conducting Covid-19 assessments via telephone and video-link since the outbreak began and realised “it’s doable”.

“People could stay home more, work remotely. Sometimes in life you just need a challenge to change the way you live and operate,” he said.

While the body’s suggestions present a compelling argument in helping to reduce emissions, a national survey of 2,000 people found that 37 per cent are finding it increasingly difficult to work from home as the lockdown continues.

The survey commissioned last week by Moneypenny, showed that a further 6 per cent said they don't feel they can work from home any longer, while 52 per cent said they have got used to home working and won't mind a longer lockdown.

Workloads also seem to be reducing for some. After more than three weeks in lockdown 24 per cent said they feel like work is drying up, while 17 per cent say they spend fewer hours on work each week compared with pre-lockdown times and admit to feeling guilty about this.

However, 12 per cent said they are actually spending more hours working than they would in the office.

Working at home also seems to have reduced communication with work colleagues for most; 72 per cent of those surveyed admitted they don't speak to anyone from work for a full day and of these, almost a third (32 per cent) said this lack of dialogue goes on for more than a day.

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