Climate Assembly UK: where are we now? Contents


Net Zero

1.In June 2019, the Climate Change Act (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 was passed into legislation committing the UK to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100% (to “net zero”) by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels).1 As a step towards reaching this target, on 21 April 2021, the Government committed to reducing UK emissions by 78% by 2035.2 The Government has stated its intention to publish a Net Zero Strategy before November 2021, which will set out its plan, policy and milestones to achieve the 2050 net zero target.3

2.In November 2019, the Government accepted the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendation that HM Treasury should run a Net Zero Review, investigating “how the costs of achieving net zero emissions are distributed and the benefits returned […] across the whole economy”, and “the full range of policy levers, including carbon pricing, taxes, financial incentives, public spending, regulation and information provision”.4 The final report from the Review was originally due in Autumn 2020. An interim report was published December 2020, but the final report is yet to be published.

The Climate Assembly UK

3.During the 2017–19 Parliament, six select committees jointly commissioned a citizen’s assembly to deliberate on potential pathways to achieve the Government’s net zero target—the statutory target to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.5 Climate Assembly UK (CAUK) was designed to harness the attitudes of an informed public, through a citizens’ assembly, to help both Parliament and the Government gauge public opinion on a wide range of climate change policies and proposals.

4.CAUK was the first such UK-wide Assembly on climate change. It comprised 108 Assembly members randomly selected from across the UK, who were reflective of the UK population in terms of age, gender, geography, and attitudes towards climate change. The Assembly took place across six weekends in early 2020, three in person, with the remainder moved online due to Covid restrictions. Over these weekends, the Assembly members heard talks about climate change from a range of expert stakeholders and researchers, and they discussed and debated potential solutions and policy options. The Assembly members voted on their final recommendations by secret ballot.6

5.CAUK’s report, ‘The path to net zero’,7 was published on 10 September 2020 and sets out the Assembly’s recommendations in eight key policy areas, including: reducing emissions from travel on land and air, UK’s electricity generation, energy in the home, things that we buy, food and land-use, greenhouse gas removals, and the Covid-19 recovery. The report also identified underlying principles which should underpin the transition to net zero, including “informing and educating everyone”, “fairness within the UK”, “leadership from government”, and “protecting and restoring the natural world”.8 The Government welcomed the report. Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, then Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

This Assembly represents the very best of civil society. It’s people from across the whole country who have come together, giving up their time to shape the future on climate action. […] I do believe that the climate assembly has shown us the benefits of working with a dedicated group. One that’s been given time and information to consider complex issues in full. […] And this report will help to shape the work that we in government are doing9

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the (then) Minister of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added:

Initiatives such as the Climate Assembly play an important role in helping to develop policies that are achievable and fair. [..] [C]itizen engagement [..] is absolutely necessary if we are going to achieve the net zero carbon emissions target that we have set ourselves. […] We completely agree with the spirit of the Climate Assembly’s recommendation on greater citizenship involvement […]. The Government will continue to engage with the public on the changes that are needed to develop our ambitions on net zero and to listen very attentively to feedback.10

6.We expect the timing of the Government’s response to coincide with the first anniversary of the publication of the Climate Assembly UK’s report.

Our inquiry

7.We launched our inquiry into the ‘Findings of the report of Climate Assembly UK’ on 10 September 2020—the same day that the CAUK report’ was published.11 Our short inquiry has focussed on how Government and stakeholders have engaged with the findings of CAUK, and investigates how its recommendations have influenced the Government’s work to date.12

8.We received 26 submissions of written evidence to the inquiry.13 On 15 June 2021, we heard oral evidence from CAUK members, stakeholders and policy experts14 and from the Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth. We would like to thank all those who have helped us with this inquiry.

9.This report does not seek to evaluate all the Climate Assembly’s conclusions and recommendations. Instead, our focus is to explore how the CAUK report has influenced Government policy, and what (if any) progress it has made in implementing those recommendations, in accordance with the underlying principles set out by the CAUK. In chapter 1 we examine the impact Climate Assembly UK, as an exercise in public engagement, has had on the public, stakeholders, and the Government. We also look at how future public engagement should be tailored to maximise the success of the net zero transition. This would ensure that the transition prioritises the Assembly’s highest voted underpinning principal, “informing and education everyone”. In chapter 2 we consider how Government can ensure that the concept of “fairness”, a second highest underpinning principle identified by CAUK, is prioritised throughout the net zero transition.

1 Climate Change Act (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, section 1.

4 Climate Change Committee, Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming, May 2019, p 196

5 The six commissioning committees were Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Environmental Audit; Housing, Communities and Local Government; Science and Technology; Transport; and Treasury.

6 To find more information about the Assembly’s process and participant selection see Climate Assembly UK, The path to net zero (10 September 2020), p 34–55

7 Climate Assembly UK, The path to net zero (10 September 2020)

8 ibid

9 UK Parliament, Climate Assembly UK: Final report, accessed 28 June 2021

10 HC Deb, 26 November 2020, col 1064 [Commons Chamber]

11 HC Deb, 10 September 2020, col 812–814. We published a full call for evidence on 19 April 2021

12 For the full terms of reference see here

13 Written evidence was submitted from groups and individuals spanning academia, lobby groups, statutory bodies, think tanks, business, Government, and teams involved in the delivery and evaluation of the Assembly. Written evidence to the inquiry can be found on the Committee’s website

14 Full list is attached at the back of this report.

Published: 8 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement