Skip to content
Infrastructure blog

The net zero debate has moved from ‘why’ to ‘how’

22 February 2024

People want to play their part, but we must acknowledge the challenges, writes Andrew Jones MP.

The net zero debate has moved from ‘why’ to ‘how’
A new APPGI and ICE policy paper explores how policy can mobilise the British public to adopt lower-carbon behaviours.

The New Year reception for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Infrastructure (APPGI) is a landmark, almost a tradition.

Our first meeting of the year brings together parliamentarians, industry leaders, and policymakers, and for the last few years, we have been joined by the chancellor of the exchequer.

People clearly think this is one to get in their diaries early.

The library at One Great George Street is also a lovely venue. So, there were high expectations and a good buzz throughout.

The support our group has received from the chancellor is very much appreciated.

Infrastructure investment is central in achieving national policies

The chancellor’s remarks made clear his belief in the central role of infrastructure investment in achieving key national policies.

It was, therefore, more than appropriate that the APPGI was launching a policy paper at the event.

Our policy paper, titled What are the public behavioural changes required to meet net zero?, builds on previous work the group has done – net zero has been a policy area for us for years.

The net zero debate has evolved

One of the strengths of the group is our capacity to convene, to bring together different people who have expertise in an area and distil that into practical suggestions and recommendations for policymakers.

We chose this area because the debate around net zero has changed, or perhaps evolved.

Achieving net zero by 2050 is the law. But I think the debate has moved from “why” to “how” – and “who pays?”

We are also at the point where much of the lower-hanging fruit has been taken and the progress made has been fantastic.

But we can see that it will be harder ahead. Our policy paper is seeking to shape the next steps.

Public choice is fundamental

At the heart of this thinking is that the government must not just bring the public with it on the net zero journey, but think about how they can be mobilised.

The government must play its role, of course.

From an infrastructure perspective, that role will include capital projects across many sectors, as the chancellor said to us.

To achieve the objective, however, the billions of decisions and choices being made every day as the people of the UK go about their daily lives will be needed too.

I think people want to play their part, but we must acknowledge the challenges of doing so.

Indeed, in preparing the report, market research was conducted, and that was helpful in assessing the level of public acceptance, resistance, and where concerns lie.

Informing political discussion ahead of the general election

Recommendations are the heart of the paper. It is the right time in our political cycle for publishing ideas because all the political parties are working on manifestos for the general election ahead.

I hope those reading this blog or those who attended our reception will have the opportunity to read further. I am biased, but the paper is worth a read.

People know that with net zero, there is a huge issue ahead, but good progress has been made. They know there are no silver bullets, and they can see there are difficult choices ahead.

Honesty is both a key ask from the public and a key recommendation in the paper.

Judging by the furore when a small change was made to electric car deadlines – where honesty in the cost of the vehicles was central – this will prove hard for some politicians.

Delaying decisions will increase costs

There is one thought we should all bear in mind: we know it has to happen, but the longer it is left, the more expensive it will be.

Cost matters, but deferring decisions will make the costs greater.

Leaning into the challenges, rather than being dragged kicking and screaming, is how to succeed. Infrastructure will be central and the APPGI will continue its work to demonstrate that.

Thank you to the team at the ICE who did such good work on the paper, and for all their secretarial support.

And thank you to everyone who came to our reception – I am sure it was worth getting in the diary early.

Find out more about the important work of the APPGI.

*The ICE welcomes guests to share their views about infrastructure policy issues on the Infrastructure Blog. These views are the views of the individual.

If you’re interested in writing for the Infrastructure Blog, please email [email protected]. The ICE reserves the right not to publish articles that have been submitted.

  • Andrew Jones MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI)