Taxes on long-haul flights and a ban on new petrol cars should be introduced to help the UK tackle climate change, the nation’s first citizens’ assembly on the issue has recommended.
The final report from Climate Assembly UK also supports a ban on sales of new gas boilers and new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030-2035 to help Britain meet its legal goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The group of more than 100 people from across the UK also said the shift to net-zero must be fair to people, and allow for freedom and choice where possible for individuals and local areas.
Climate Assembly UK was commissioned by six parliamentary select committees (but not including the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and asked to examine how the country can meet its legal target to cut greenhouse gases to zero overall by mid-century.
While 2050 is the date the government have agreed to work towards, many climate campaigners have said that this target is already far too late to make a meaningful difference to global warming.
The group, who are representative of the UK population including in their views on climate change, met to learn about, discuss and make informed decisions on options for meeting the net-zero goal. The recommendations they came up with are advisory only, and do not have to be enacted upon by government.
Here’s what the assembly came up with:
Banning new petrol cars by 2035
Members agreed on banning the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030–2035, with moves to quickly stop selling the most polluting vehicles and grants for low carbon cars.
A reduction in car use by an average of 2%–5% per decade, improved public transport, and investment in cycling and scooters.
Taxes for frequent and long-haul flyers
People should still be allowed to fly, the assembly said, but there should be limits to the growth in passenger numbers and frequent and long-haul flyers should pay more, with taxes that increase as people fly more often and further.
They also agreed on a need to investment in development and use of new technologies such as synthetic fuels and electric aircraft.
Carbon zero homes and ban on gas boilers
The assembly said efforts to retrofit homes to cut emissions need to minimise disruption in the home, with extra support for costs and flexibility and choices for homeowners.
They added that there should be a ban on sales of new gas boilers from 2030 or 2035 and local plans for zero carbon homes, with areas able to choose the best technologies for their needs.
Drop our meat and dairy consumption by up to 40%
Many of us have already chosen to change the way we eat already, but assembly members recommended that as a whole there should be a change in diet more widely to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 20%-40%.
They said there should be increased education to help make the changes voluntary, and labelling food and drink products to show the emissions that come from different foods.
Recommendations also included restoring woodlands, peatlands and gorselands and supporting farmers to make the shift to climate-friendly farming.
Assembly members said targets, standards and taxes should be used to ensure businesses make products using less carbon energy and materials, and products should come with carbon emissions labelling.
Measures should also be introduced to enable product sharing, to reduce new purchases, and to support increased recycling, they said.
New wind and solar farms
Offshore wind, solar power and onshore wind should be used to generate electricity as the UK moves to net zero, the group recommended.
There were much lower levels of support for bioenergy, nuclear, and fossil fuels with technology that captures and permanently stores emissions.
Managing carbon emissions
The assembly said the UK should work toward better forest management, restoring and managing peatlands and wetlands, using wood in construction and enhancing the storage of carbon in the soil to absorb emissions from the atmosphere.
There was less support for technologies to remove emissions, but some support for further research and development into them.
Build green initiatives into Covid recovery
The assembly said limits or conditions should be put on investment in high carbon industries, support introduced for low carbon sectors and a reexamination and further investment in infrastructure.
Make the most of the economic opportunities presented by the path to net zero and try to deal with Covid-19 and climate change together where possible.
The Climate Assembly introduced a number of additional recommendations, which include:
- Making the transition to net zero a cross-party aim, rather than a partisan issue
- Greater transparency in relationships between the government and big energy companies
- Ensuring UK emissions are not simply pushed elsewhere in the world
What didn’t the assembly pass?
The Citizens’ Assembly was focused on examining ways to bring the UK to net zero emissions by 2050, but many say that this legal target does not go far enough and in the intervening 30 years irrecoverable damage will be done to the planet.
Groups such as Extinction Rebellion have called for the legal target to be reduced to 2025, but the assembly did not pass two proposals on bringing these target forward.
Slightly more members opposed it than those who supported it, and the balance was held by those who said they were unsure or didn’t mind.