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Public needs to be engaged on net zero goals including lifestyle changes, MPs say

The UK Government has been urged to publish a strategy on how it intends to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and engage Britons on what lifestyle changes may be needed in future to reach the goal.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, has made a series of recommendations in a new report.

It states that the Government’s public engagement initiatives have been insufficient, a finding backed up by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and the Public Accounts Committee.

The report also 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. This should include detailed plans for education and engagement as well as greater opportunities for citizens' assemblies, citizens' juries and other methods, the body said.

Climate Assembly UK (CAUK), a body composed of Britons from different areas and demographics, was created last year to make climate recommendations to the Government. It found that many of the measures undertaken due to the Covid-19 lockdown would be a useful way to reduce carbon emissions in the future.

BEIS also said the Government should lead a more joined-up approach to net zero with local authorities, business and citizens. It said there was a lack of cross-departmental coordination across Whitehall in delivering net zero which is especially notable considering the UK is set to host COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

Darren Jones, BEIS chair, said: “Climate Assembly UK brought together 108 citizens over multiple weekends to agree a series of recommendations to Government, as Ministers start to set out how our net zero target will be implemented.

“At the heart of the CAUK proposals were the principles of public engagement and fairness, but Ministers have so far failed to engage the public on any of the big changes we expect to see in the years ahead.

“Whether it’s decarbonising heating in our homes, reducing our emissions from transport or dealing with changes in the workplace, we know the net zero transition will soon become a lived experience in every home across the country.

“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.”

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