This week in Parliament I was delighted to speak at the launch of the Climate Assembly UK’s report, The Path to Net Zero. The report is the result of five months of discussion by selected members of the public on how they think the UK should tackle climate change.
The Government is alert to the urgency of the climate crisis. The UK was the first major economy to put into law our target to reach Net Zero – making the country’s emissions carbon neutral - by 2050.
To reach this target how we live, work, what we buy and how we produce energy will all need to change. That’s why it was so important for members of the public to discuss these questions. The path to Net Zero will affect all of us.
It was heartening to see the Assembly agree with much of the Government’s current work in their report. The Assembly recommended planting more forests: Government has committed to plant 30,000 hectares of trees every year by 2025. The Assembly called for more investment in low carbon transport: Government has committed to invest in 4,000 brand new zero-carbon buses. The Assembly called for more wind and solar power: Last year, renewables supplied over a third of our total electricity generation, and earlier this year we saw a record streak of 67 consecutive days of coal-free electricity generation.
Of course, government alone cannot achieve the change we need. Politicians, policy makers, businesses, and the public all need to work together.
The decisions we all make every day will be critical. The Committee on Climate Change estimate that 62% of emissions reductions involve some form of behaviour change. Whether that’s a family installing energy efficiency measures through our £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme, a supermarket shopper choosing sustainable foods, or a worker deciding to cycle to work rather than take the car.
Global co-operation is also essential. Next year, the UN climate change conference, COP26, will be hosted by the UK. Ahead of the summit, the Climate Assembly’s report will help to shape the Government’s work over the next, critical, fourteen months.
In the run-up to the conference all countries involved must publish new targets for reducing their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. As President Designate of COP26, I am urging all countries to make these targets as ambitious as possible and to commit to reaching Net Zero as soon as they can. We have already put into law the UK’s target to reach Net Zero by 2050 and in the run up to COP26 we will publish our own NDC.
This kind of co-operation between the public, politicians, business and civil society will be crucial to ensure the path we take to Net Zero aligns with the public’s concerns and values. It is only by working together that we will play our part in limiting global temperature rises.