A citizens assembly has found that there is strong support for a green recovery in the UK, with 79% of members saying the recovery should help net zero.
The Climate Assembly brings together 108 people, chosen to be representative of demographics in the UK and of the levels of concern over climate change. In a series of six weekend meet ups, held between January and May, the group listened to a range of views and information about meeting net zero by 2050, before entering into discussion.
The final weekend focused on the impact of COVID-19, the lockdown and the economic downturn, and how that will affect decarbonisation.
Nearly four fifths of the group agreed or strongly agreed that the government should take steps to rebuild the economy that are designed to move the country towards net zero. Just 9% either disagreed or strongly disagreed, while 12% were unsure.
Those who agreed emphasised the need to support low carbon industries such as the renewable energy sector, invest in infrastructure and take advantage of the current opportunity for change.
“It’s an opportunity to encourage new businesses, kick start with renewable energy businesses to get to net zero,” commented one member of the assembly.
The group who disagreed largely focused on dealing with the economic fallout of COVID-19 first and foremost. As one member put it, “where strings can be attached, do. But…support the economy in areas which lose jobs, like should have happened with the coal mines".
Additionally, the assembly of citizens thought that there should be lifestyle changes as lockdown eases. Of the over 100 members, 93% said that government, employers and others should take steps to encourage lifestyle changes that would make them more compatible with net zero.
One assembly member said: “There has never been a better opportunity to change. The government is tied by law to net zero. We are at a crossroads of change – train people to take up new jobs rather than pay unemployment benefit, evolve new industries – now is the time to do it. There is no choice.”
This included encouraging more people to work from home, and switching to forms of transport like cycling. Just 4% of the group either disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement, with 3% unsure.
The Climate Assembly joins numerous other companies, charities and associations to call on the government to place net zero at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery. The group's support is significant however, representing the citizens of the UK and not just those within environmental sectors as the UK comes through the current “tough and sad” time.