The first UK climate assembly made up of ordinary members of the public is calling for the economic recovery from Covid-19 to help drive the move to net zero carbon emissions.
In recommendations by UK citizens who took part in meetings to discuss reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the final report of the assembly said recovering from Covid-19 should be used as an opportunity to drive different lifestyles to tackle the climate crisis, including a frequent flyers tax and a reduction in meat and dairy consumption.
A large majority, 79% of the assembly, strongly agreed, or agreed, that economic recovery after the pandemic must be designed to help drive the country to its 2050 net zero target, which was signed into law last year.
These steps should include limits or conditions on investment in high carbon industries, and government encouragement for lifestyles to become more compatible with reaching net zero.
The assembly, which met for 6,000 hours across six weekends over 2020, said strong and clear leadership was needed.
“Leadership to forge a cross-party consensus that allows for certainty, long-term planning and a phased transition,” the report, published on Thursday, said. “This is not the time nor the issue for scoring party political points.”
The assembly, made up of 108 people from all walks of life, examined key areas which need to be addressed, with four experts guiding the members of the public in their decision-making. . It is similar to the model adopted in France by Emmanuel Macron.
Key recommendations in the report included:
Parliament agreed in June 2019, when Theresa May was prime minister, to set in law a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2020.
But a recent report by the Institute for Government said the UK government had not yet confronted the scale of the task.
“Meeting the commitment is a more difficult challenge than responding to the coronavirus crisis or getting Brexit done, and will require transformations in every sector of the UK economy, sustained investment over three decades and substantial changes to everyone’s lives,” the report said.
In its final recommendations, the UK climate assembly said there were key themes for the country as it moved towards net zero.
Education and information about climate change and the steps to tackle it was needed for individuals, businesses, government and others.
And any measures taken to cut emissions needed to be applied fairly. “Fair to people with jobs in different sectors. Fair to people with different incomes, travel preferences and housing arrangements. Fair to people who live in different parts of the UK,” the assembly said.
It also called for freedom and choice for individuals and local areas to be embedded in the solutions to cut emissions and said tackling climate change could be beneficial for local communities, high streets and local businesses and boost the economy, promote innovation, improve health and reduce pollution.
Chairs of the six parliamentary select committees that commissioned the assembly report have written to the prime minister, urging him to ensure that the government acts on the recommendations of Climate Assembly UK by “showing leadership at the very highest level of government” ahead of the UK hosting the UN climate summit, COP26, in November 2021.
Darren Jones MP, chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee, said: “The range of voices within these pages reflect our population. The fact that assembly members have been able to arrive at clear recommendations whilst respecting each others’ values and experiences sets an example for us all.
“Participants speak of their learning, how they clarified their views and their respect for each other’s perspectives, even when they didn’t agree. Their voices are front and centre, just as they should be.”