What’s the problem?

Reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases is not optional. The government has committed to it in law. But how we get there is still an open question. We have many choices to make along the way.

  • How should we heat our homes? Should we focus on getting hydrogen into the gas network or on solutions that use electricity instead?
  • How will we decarbonise our transport system? What balance should we aim for, between electrification of vehicles and better public transport? Maybe car clubs and rental schemes are the answer?
  • How can we move away from high carbon industries, like coal, oil and gas extraction, whilst ensuring that local communities are strengthened, not left behind?
  • How can we make sure the costs and benefits of the net zero are evenly shared?
  • How much can we rely on future technology that pulls carbon back out of the air?

These questions and many more face us over the coming years. We believe people have a right to be involved in making these decisions. The more people are involved, the better decisions we will make as a society. Yet though everyone is going to have to live with the consequences of these choices – many people may not yet know what they prefer.

  • How can you decide if you want a ground source heat pump if you don’t know how to turn one on or what it would cost to run?
  • How can you decide if you want to drive an electric vehicle without knowing how easy it will be to charge and what environmental impact it might have?
  • How can you decide if costs and benefits are evenly shared if you don’t know what they even are?
  • And how can you take a reasoned bet on future technologies without understanding the hurdles to their deployment?

Engaging people in these choices cannot be as simple as asking what they think through an online survey. They may wish to know more about the technologies involved, or how the choice will impact their neighbour, their town, or their country as a whole.

Meaningfully involving people in the transition to a low carbon economy means giving them the opportunities to develop informed opinions and have them heard. The old model of Government consultation – where only policy nerds or special interest groups engage – is not enough. We need to do better.

Photo credit: Shared Futures and Climate Assembly UK – Fabio de Paola, PA Wire