Top 10 Net Zero Behavioural Changes

By Dominic Ellis
Energy Research Partnership outlines key behavioural changes needed in the pursuit of net zero emissions...

First the good news. The energy sector has reduced its energy emissions by 63% since 1990, primarily through the reduction in coal and increase in renewables.

But of the 25 critical actions for reducing emissions recommended by the Climate Change Committee for 2018-19, only one was delievered in full. The next steps towards Net Zero will require pubic engagement and significant changes in behaviour, according to Energy Research Partnership's How Behaviour Change Will Unlock Net Zero report. 

In conclusion, it notes there is "great potential" for better use of data, digital tools and smart technologies for reducing barriers and accelerating system change - be it in smart tariffs and low carbon heating, better collection of food carbon data and personalised feedback on shopping habits.

Here are its 10 key recommendations.

10: Address barriers to behaviour change...

Future programmes relating to Net Zero must consider and address barriers to behaviour change across commercial and residential settings. Some of the corporate barriers are listed below.

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09: Implement ambitious target-driven policies...

Ambitious, target-driven policies must be implemented to drive and maintain behaviour change. Carbon taxation must be based on affordability; increased levels of taxation of all fossil fuels along with residential carbon credit schemes must be introduced; and grants and loans must be available for heating and insulation upgrades.

08: Carbon information for all age groups...

Energy consumption and carbon footprint information must be easily available to all age groups. While digital may be readily embraced by large sections of society, communication and consumption shouldn't exclude the young and old.

07: Indirect CO2 emissions must be monitored...

The breadth of indirect CO2 emissions - such as water use, food choices and shopping habits - must be monitored to help consumers see and understand their carbon footprint. UK online food shopping has more than doubled during the pandemic.

06: Smarter use of household energy...

Smarter use of energy in homes must be facilitated by further improvements to the smart meter roll-out programme, ensuring that centralised data can be used to advise customers. A range of energy-hungry products can now be controlled directly or via smart plugs. Around a third of consumers plan to increase the amount they work from home once COVID restrictions are removed.

05: Government funding for innovation...

Another crucial piece is government funding for innovation, which is needed to enable manufacturers to reduce retail pricing rather than offering the consumer a 'switching bonus' such as a scrappage scheme. Such measures only serve to drive up sales of 'green' products without incentivising suppliers to innovate and reduce cost.

04: Carbon reduction must be data driven...

Data must be captured and presented to show consumers how their actions impact their carbon footprint. The move towards more granular and timely climate change data will enable organisations and individuals to understand the true climate impact of their actions.

03: Put plans in place before policies...

Policy-driven behaviour change must be preceded by enabling plans for business and the public to move towards a low carbon lifestyle. Policy makers, manufacturers and service providers must consider public acceptance and a realistic timeframe for people to change behaviour and accept 'the new normal'.

02: Policies must be a sophisticated mix...

A sophisticated mix of regulation, incentives, nudges and penalties will be needed to motivate customers and industry towards Net Zero. To succeed, these must be preceded with robust planning to ensure they are accessible and deliverable.

01: Behaviour change critical to low carbon policies...

Behaviour change must be a critical element of future low carbon policies, lifestyle choices, product development and infrastructure upgrades. Reductions in carbon emissions required to hit the UK's 2050 Net Zero target will only be achieved if there is a substantial and sustainable change in societal behaviour. 

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