It is vital for Britons to change their behaviours if the UK is to tackle the climate crisis – but the government is not doing enough to help, according to a new report.
The House of Lords environment and climate change committee has slammed No 10’s unyielding devotion to consumer choice and warned that the current approach to enabling behaviour change is “seriously inadequate”.
While the government has introduced some policies to help people adopt new technologies, such as electric cars, that approach has not been replicated in other areas, it adds.
Baroness Parminter, chair of the committee, said: “After a summer of record temperatures, fires, and hose pipe bans, it has never been more apparent that the twin crises of climate change and nature loss demand an immediate and sustained response.
“People power is critical to reach our environmental goals, but unless we are encouraged and enabled to change behaviours in how we travel, what we eat and buy and how we heat our homes, we won’t meet those targets.
“Polling shows the public is ready for leadership from the government. People want to know how to play their part in tackling climate change and environmental damage.
“The government’s mantra of “going with the grain of consumer choice” demonstrates a reluctance to help people cut carbon-intensive consumption.
“It is in a unique position to guide the public in changing their behaviours, however, their approach is inadequate in the face of the urgent scale of the environmental challenge.
“The prime minister urgently needs to set out her vision of a country where low carbon choices and behaviours can flourish.”
The committee has also warned the government is placing too great a reliance on undeveloped technologies to get the UK to net zero on carbon emissions.
The committee is urging No 10 to use the lessons of the Covid pandemic to enable people to make the necessary decisions about travel, food, and energy use.
That includes putting in place regulations, cash incentives, and financial support for low-income households to enable low-carbon living.
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “We need governments to be using all the tools at their disposal – including behavioural change campaigns – if we’re to avert climate breakdown.
“Governments have a responsibility to guide people on making better, climate-friendly choices, alongside making policy decisions that protect nature and tackle the climate crisis.”
“The UK government is currently neglecting its duty on both counts. With millions of people struggling to heat their homes this winter as the energy crisis bites, it’s baffling that the government isn’t providing energy efficiency advice.”
Ami McCarthy, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Unfortunately, the Truss government’s peculiar ideology prioritises fossil fuel profits above people’s welfare.
“Any increase in our energy efficiency will reduce those profits and so has to be opposed as an ‘enemy of growth’. And so ‘stop climate change’ is effectively replaced as a political objective by ‘burn as much expensive fossil fuel as possible’.
“Everyone knows this is a very bad idea, but unfortunately the Truss government is only listening to the oil and gas companies.”
Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said the UK will not succeed in tackling climate change unless it makes the best thing to do for the environment the easiest choice.
She added: “People want to do the right thing when it comes to the climate, but at the moment it can be too complicated or too expensive to take the needed steps, like insulating their homes, switching to electric cars, or reusing and repairing instead of buying new high-carbon goods.
“But the government needs to support them to do so with grants, tax incentives, and sometimes just readily available and clear information.”
Last week it was reported that the prime minister, Liz Truss, had blocked plans for a public information campaign asking people to save energy over the winter, reportedly because she is “ideologically opposed“ to the idea.