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Infrastructure blog

Public support for net-zero target is key

10 September 2020

Climate Assembly UK have published their final report outlining the steps they believe are necessary for the UK’s economy to transition to a net-zero footing. Here we discuss the parallels with ICE’s own thinking.

Public support for net-zero target is key
Does the Government have a handle on reaching the 2050 net-zero target? Image credit: Shutterstock

Providing the public with an appropriate platform for their views to be voiced on climate change is important. Polls commissioned by ICE have demonstrated that there exists real skepticism that government has a handle on reaching the 2050 net-zero target.

On infrastructure specifically, only 10% of British adults think that right conditions are in place for the sector to transition to net-zero. Just a third (31%) say they think that the government has a plan to reach the target.

Climate Assembly UK, which is made up of over 100 members of the public, was put together by six select committees in 2019 to understand public preferences on how climate change should be tackled.

Over the past 12 months, members of Climate Assembly UK have met regularly to review a range of publicly available evidence and develop recommendations that they hope government will take forward as part of efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In their final report, they conclude that if the UK is to meet the target then government must demonstrate more leadership and facilitate a joined-up approach that permeates through all levels of society.

A focus on informing and educating the public aligns well with previous ICE calls for the development of a net-zero education and awareness-raising campaign specifically for the built environment. A campaign that we think should form a central pillar of a dedicated net-zero plan for the infrastructure sector.

The need for a net-zero infrastructure plan

Indeed, if the infrastructure sector is to play its part in the UK’s economy achieving net-zero then a coherent plan of action is required.

We recently published a policy paper setting out four critical policy choices that government must take in the short-term in developing such a plan. Facing up to these now will put the infrastructure sector on the right pathway to reducing emissions and reaching the 2050 target.

In no specific order these policy choices focus on the need for policy action in the following areas:

  • The future energy mix, including the role of the hydrogen, nuclear, bioenergy and other emerging energy technologies.
  • Pathways to decarbonising transport, including the electrification of transport networks and shifting to cleaner transport modes.
  • Pathways for decarbonising heat, including the retrofit of buildings for hydrogen, electrification, energy efficiency and insulation.
  • Reducing emissions from harder-to-abate sectors, including the deployment of carbon capture and storage and negative emissions technologies

Today’s report from Climate Assembly UK rightly identifies the need for action in a number of these areas. In particular, it calls for the phasing out of the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles as part of efforts to decarbonise transport, alongside banning the sale of gas boilers and moving towards more sustainable ways of heating our homes.

Continued inertia in these areas is no longer viable if the UK is going to play its role in climate change mitigation.

The National Infrastructure Strategy

Fortunately, the government has an excellent opportunity in the shape of its forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) to set out a comprehensive plan for putting the UK’s economic infrastructure networks – transport, power, heating and so forth – on a net-zero footing.

As the first of its kind it is expected that the NIS will set out the long-term strategic direction for infrastructure provision in the UK, including how the delivery and maintenance of critical networks can be transformed in order that we all have access to the very best infrastructure.

Key to the NIS achieving this outcome is to ensure that it is based on the best available evidence, so that future infrastructure planning and delivery supports the wellbeing and prosperity of communities right across the UK. In this context, the net-zero target represents a golden thread that must run right the way through the NIS.

In case you missed it...

Read ICE’s policy paper A plan for transitioning infrastructure to net zero

  • Ben Goodwin, lead policy manager at ICE