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APPGI and ICE policy paper: what are the public behavioural changes required to meet net zero?

06 February 2024

The UK is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

To meet 2050 targets, significant public behaviour change will be needed.

Yet, to change their behaviour, the public needs the support of policymakers and businesses – as well as an infrastructure system that will empower them to make the right choices.

In many cases, the changes the public must make will need investment and cause potential disruption.

The rising cost of living has also made people less likely to spend money on significant new investments, including electric vehicles or improving household energy efficiency.

Nevertheless, net-zero-aligned behaviour change can unlock long-lasting social, economic, and environmental benefits for people and the planet.

The APPGI and ICE policy paper

It will be important for policymakers and the government to create an enabling environment that allows the public to make the required changes.

This paper draws on evidence from expert stakeholders across infrastructure and civil society, including engineering companies, energy and environmental experts, and ICE members.

It also includes polling and focus group research carried out on behalf of the ICE by Thinks Insight & Strategy.

It sets out recommendations to help the public make the necessary behavioural changes required to get to net zero, focusing on home heating and transport.

These aim to reduce cost, build public trust, challenge misinformation, and ensure the benefits of the net zero transition are communicated to the public.


1. Provide a single point of reference

Develop an information portal or hub (led by government or an independent body) to demystify net zero choices.

There’s currently no single trusted source of information to help the public make net zero behaviour changes that can also provide transparent information about costs and ‘how to’ guides.

This portal could also act as a feedback loop so the public can see how the action they have taken is making a difference in the transition to net zero.

To ensure it’s accessible to all members of the public, it would be a national platform with the capacity for links into localisation.

This would improve how net zero behaviour changes are communicated to the public.

2. Address market and non-financial barriers

Address structural issues with the market by ensuring energy and electric vehicle companies provide a market response to encourage public take-up.

Address non-financial barriers to net zero behaviours, such as providing the public with access to skilled installation operators to build trust in the supply chain.

Improve the design aesthetic of EV and heat pump infrastructure to make it more visually appealing.

For heat pumps, this should involve minimising upfront installation costs to incentivise uptake and reduce consumer barriers, as well as extending the existing Green Home Finance Accelerator pilots.

Stamp duty incentives could facilitate uptake by encouraging homeowners to invest in heat pump technology when purchasing a property.

For EVs, this should involve introducing a tax system (based on the previous CO2-based vehicle tax system) for efficiency based on miles/kWh.

3. Deliver blue-green infrastructure that’s accessible to everyone

Ensure the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account in a just net zero transition through consultation processes and developing equality impact assessments.

Deliver blue-green infrastructure that is accessible to the public. This will improve public wellbeing and provide communities with more ownership of the net zero transition, which is then likely to encourage other net-zero-friendly behaviours.

4. Create a clear policy path to follow

Develop a consistent policy framework outlining a long-term plan for an approved pipeline of infrastructure upgrades designed to support change in public behaviours.

This could include investing in safe active travel infrastructure and reliable public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles supported by local authorities.

An enabling framework is required to speed up the deployment of low-carbon heating, such as heat pumps.

This framework should focus on how net zero's up-front and operational costs can be reduced to assist the public in making net zero behaviour changes.

The public needs the right infrastructure in place before they can change their behaviour.

Public engagement must be included within a wider programme of infrastructure upgrades to accelerate the net zero transition.

Government can, therefore, provide industry with the necessary signals to invest in and develop improved low-carbon alternatives to existing behaviours that are equally affordable or cheaper.

5. Share information

Encourage leadership and knowledge transfer from larger-scale businesses and private sector organisations to guide SMEs, third-sector organisations and the public on reducing emissions.

Businesses can play a leading role in influencing attitudes and behaviours around adopting net zero behaviours.

They can share best practice and signpost to existing awareness campaigns around net zero which can also strengthen the consistency of a campaign to the public.

APPGI and ICE policy paper: what are the public behavioural changes required to meet net zero?

Content type: Policy

Last updated: 06/02/2024

Author: ICE policy team

  • Laura Cunliffe-Hall, interim lead policy manager at ICE