Ann Link reports on the first recommendations by the UK Climate Assembly to tackle UK carbon emissions
Parliament set up the Climate Assembly ostensibly to enable a wide range of people from across the country to decide together how the UK can get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The approach the assembly has taken has come in for criticism: the 2050 target is considered far too late and the assembly had no mandate to question this deadline or bring it forward; it was not called upon to consider adaptation, biodiversity, or the emissions created by goods and services imported from other countries. Most of all, the assembly’s conclusions are not binding on the government. Nonetheless, the assembly’s recommendations do show some practical ways forward.
The assembly of 108 was selected to be representative of the UK in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, education, rural versus urban, geography and level of concern about climate change. Members spent several weekends near Birmingham listening to experts and deliberating. After lockdown there were more sessions by Zoom.
This activity has culminated in the Climate Assembly’s first full report published on 10 September. You can read the full report here.
Key recommendations include:
- A frequent flyer tax
- Increased government investment in low carbon buses and trains
- An urgent ban on heavily polluting vehicles such as SUVs
- Prioritising wind and solar energy
- A change in diet to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 20-40%
Potential solutions were voted on in secret ballots, and government investment in low carbon buses and trains, and stopping the sale of the most polluting vehicles achieved 91% and 86% support respectively. However, some measures for stronger climate action did not receive strong support. For example, the assembly did not recommend reaching net-zero emissions earlier than 2050.
But there are also some key demands that run throughout the assembly’s recommendations, notably:
- improved information and education for all on climate change
- fairness, including across sectors, geographies, incomes and health
- freedom and choice for individuals and local areas
- strong leadership from government.
A major message is that there is broad support for urgent climate action in the UK, despite contrary impressions from some media. Once people have had a chance to consider the evidence, they want much more to be done.