10.Over the past two decades the UK has achieved a 40% reduction in carbon emissions. This has largely been achieved within the power sector, through the closure of coal plants and the increases in renewable energy capacity. Decarbonising other sectors, such as food, transport, and home energy, will have a more tangible impact on individual citizens, and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) suggests that behavioural changes will play a crucial role in the success or otherwise of the net zero transition. Climate Assembly UK (CAUK) identified that continued public engagement and education was a vital component in the UK’s journey towards net zero, and agreed that “informing and educating everyone” should be the number one underlying principal throughout the transition.
11.The importance of public engagement for achieving net zero has been repeatedly highlighted by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and the CCC. In their 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, the CCC wrote:
[m]eaningful public engagement will help build stronger public consent for the [net zero] transition […]. [People] should also be able to see a benefit from making low-carbon choices and have easy access to the information and funding required to make changes happen.
12.In its written evidence, Lancaster Environment Centre told us how and why public engagement can support the Government to deliver the necessarily ambitious policies that will be required to achieve the net zero target:
governments must aim to develop a ‘virtuous circle’ of climate strategy. This begins with widespread understanding of the climate crisis, and the emissions reductions necessary to meet agreed targets […]. The next step is to develop policies that are meaningful and engage citizens […] by linking to people’s lives and aspirations, as well as economic, health and other co-benefits. Popular measures help to build citizens’ support and engagement […] which in turn lays the ground for a more ambitious strategy […]. If, [at] any stage, there is not enough understanding or support for proposed climate action, there is a risk of a backlash.
13.In March 2021 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) commissioned a report on public engagement and net zero. Dr Christina Demski, who authored the subsequent report, Net zero public engagement and participation, found that “public engagement may have the potential to impact the pace of delivery, cost and success of net zero”. Dr Demski identified high levels of scepticism from the public about the motivation and commitment from a range of stakeholders (e.g. energy companies, industry) to reaching net zero targets. She concluded that increased engagement with the public could help build this trust, which could then spur more individual action, as members of the public have increased willingness to act on the delivery of net zero, if there are assurances that others are doing the same.
14.Both the CCC and the PAC have recently found that the Government’s progress on public engagement has been inadequate. In its report, Achieving Net Zero, March 2021, PAC concluded that the Government has “not yet properly engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that achieving net zero will require”.
15.To date, and as part of the UK’s Presidency of COP26, the UK Government has launched two major engagement campaigns. The first, Together For Our Planet, launched on 10 November 2020, is designed to “raise awareness of COP26 and the work the UK is doing to combat climate change”. So far, the campaign has launched: two competitions for children; a challenge programme to find new digital and data technology solutions to tackle climate change issues; and a schools COP and climate change resources pack. The second, Plant For Our Planet, was launched on 5 June 2021, and is the only campaign, to date, which is targeted at individual adults (outside of the business community). This initiative aims to get the country planting trees and flowers to help tackle climate change, but the campaign does not address the net zero transition explicitly or the behaviour changes which civil society will need to make.
16.Through the COP26 Presidency, the UK Government is also involved in the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign, which encourages non-state actors to set net zero targets. Given the importance of public engagement to the successful delivery of the UK’s net zero target, these initiatives alone are not enough.
17.Several witnesses identified the need for more public engagement in the future. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation wrote that the assembly “paves the way for continued government investment in public engagement on climate”. Prof. Rebecca Willis, a CAUK expert lead and environmental policy academic at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University explained that previous decarbonisation has focussed on changes which the general population would not notice (such as powering the grid using renewable energy), but future changes will affect people’s lives, and so can no longer remain invisible. She added that this provides “the opportunity to have an ongoing conversation [with the public] about the need to reduce emissions and the ways in which we can do it [so that it] improve[s their] lives.” In addition, some groups in society may not feel able to engage with the net zero goal. This could be due to a lack of time or money, a lack of appropriate skills, knowledge and experience, a lack of available transport or due to existing responsibilities. It is important that engagement campaigns keep these disengaged groups in mind when developing policies, to ensure that they are not disproportionately impacted during the transition.
18.The Government supports the Assembly’s recommendation, that there needs to be greater education, information and engagement surrounding the topics of climate change and net zero, and has committed to “communicating [their] public engagement approach leading up to COP26 in [the] Net Zero Strategy”. However, when we asked the Minister for Business Energy and Clean Growth, Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, about the Government’s plans for further public engagement, especially for engaging those out of formal learning environments, and the disengaged, she was unable to offer any proposals or initiatives specifically targeted to such groups, or specify how these groups will be reached.
19.In its 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, published on 24 June 2021, the CCC recommended that the Cabinet Office and the BEIS department work together to develop a full Public Engagement Strategy, to be published in 2021–22. The CCC suggests that this strategy should build on CAUK’s recommendations to involve citizens in the decision-making process on decarbonisation choices.
20.Despite its commitment to engage the public on the key choices to be made on the path to Net Zero, the Government’s initiatives to date, though welcome, are insufficient. The lack of specific plans to engage with those who are no longer in formal education, or those who are disengaged are particularly stark and must be remedied.
21.We agree with the Climate Change Committee and endorse its recommendation that the Government must publish a net zero Public Engagement Strategy, which includes detailed plans for education and engagement during the transition to net zero. We recommend that the Government base the content of the Public Engagement Strategy on the conclusions from the Climate Assembly UK report, and explicitly refer to the Assembly’s recommendations on a topic where relevant.
22.The Public Engagement Strategy should include details of how the Government will work to engage all segments of the public, including those who are no longer in formal education, or those who are disengaged. This should be published as soon as possible, but, at the very latest alongside the long-awaited Net Zero Strategy.
23.Deliberative public engagement is an approach of involving people who represent a community in decision-making on an issue which affects them. During the deliberative process, members have the chance to learn about and discuss this issue before coming to a viewpoint on it. This can be a powerful tool, as Bang the Table, an online engagement platform, identified in their blog post “Deliberative engagement builds trust within community”:
[b]y bringing diverse voices to the table, deliberative engagement enables contrary views and potential tensions to emerge and be managed in a structured, respectful manner. This in turn adds to the depth and richness of reaching consensus. It can often mean engaging with rather than avoiding difficult conversations.
24.CAUK was a large-scale exercise in deliberative democracy. Being involved in a deliberative engagement event, like CAUK, can greatly impact the participants as well. Evidence shows that participants often change their attitudes on policies, and opinions on relevant topics due to taking part. Indeed, the official, independent CAUK evaluation team told us that CAUK had a large impact on many of the Assembly members’ attitudes surrounding climate change.
Through participating in [the assembly] the [members] learnt about climate change and decarbonisation, changed their views to think reaching Net Zero was more achievable, improved their participation skills and gained trust in parliament and the political system.
25.83% of Assembly members reported behaviour changes after taking part in the Assembly and 72% were more convinced that achieving net zero by 2050 would be possible than they were before participating in CAUK. CAUK’s delivery team, Involve also ran a survey with 166 responses. This survey found that that the Assembly has had a big impact on other individuals and organisations. 85% of respondents have discussed the Assembly with colleagues or work contacts, 78% said their own thinking had been shaped by the idea of the Assembly, and 63% said their own work or thinking had been influenced by CAUK’s recommendations.
26.The survey also showed strong consensus among respondents on the future use of citizens assemblies and other methods. 84% of respondents agreed that UK Parliament should use citizens assemblies again in the future, and 83% agreed that Government should take account of the recommendations when developing policy. UK100 and IPPR also told us that the design of CAUK event was useful in helping to design some local citizens’ assemblies and juries, and similarly, the design of Scotland’s Climate Assembly was influenced and guided by lessons they learnt from the delivery of CAUK.
27.Signe Norberg, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Aldersgate Group, told us that deliberative engagement is useful for businesses, as they can use the recommendations to advise their work and have more confidence that there will be public support and buy-in for subsequent products and strategies they introduce. Sustrans (a walking and cycling lobby group), the National Farmers Union (NFU), and OFTEC (an energy trade body) told us that many of the findings of the Assembly mirrored much of their research, and as such has helped add credibility to the three groups’ work where it aligns with the CAUK recommendations. However, the NFU also voiced a concern that:
[e]ngineered solutions [to greenhouse gas removals] […] are inherently complex areas that require a high level of technical understanding but were covered in only one session [at the Assembly]. This may have impacted the overall recommendations because in contrast, nature-based solutions are easier to understand.
28.In addition to the usefulness of deliberative engagement for individuals and businesses, it also has the potential to be useful for the Government. The Aldersgate Group told us that the report gives the Government a “licence to act” on climate policy. There has already been some engagement with the Assembly’s conclusions, for example, the Department has facilitated briefings for over 400 civil servants on the Assembly’s findings. Lancaster Environment Centre told us that, through their work with BEIS officials, that they observed “an appetite in government for greater use of deliberative processes to engage citizens in policy decisions” since the Assembly. Policy Connect, OFTEC and Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) noted that there is also evidence of the themes of the Assembly being used in Government policy already, such as in the 10 Point Plan and the Energy White Paper.
29.Several witnesses subsequently advised that deliberative engagement should be further utilised by Government in the net zero transition, as it provides the Government with an opportunity to begin a two-way discussion with the public to learn which policies they support. Rebecca Willis noted that people’s support for policies “increases if they know that it is something that has been discussed and agreed by citizens as part of a democratic process like a climate assembly”. Rebecca Willis also warned that if the public does not trust proposed policies, this could lead to backlash which would jeopardise the success of the net zero transition, citing the gilet jaunes movement in France and the recently failed Swiss referendum on climate change policies.
30.Both Abundance Investment and the IPPR suggested that climate assemblies should play a role in the Government’s future public engagement strategy, but that these should not necessarily be on the same scale as CAUK. These could either be more localised geographically, or focus in on specific aspects of the net zero transition. Energy Systems Catapult, Policy Connect and The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations also stressed that using a variety of methods for future engagement is essential. In particular, Energy Systems Catapult said “[i]n order to enhance the involvement of the public in decision making, it is important to give people experience of the things they are being asked to deliberate on”.
31.Climate Assembly UK has proved that deliberative engagement is important for both building consensus and maintaining public trust in the net zero transition and will facilitate the behavioural change required to underpin a successful transition to net zero. We recommend that the Government, in its Net Zero Strategy, sets out its plans for deliberative engagement on net zero policies through citizens assemblies, citizens juries and other methods.
32.To date the Government has not provided a full response to the Climate Assembly UK report. The Government’s written evidence to our inquiry provided a partial response, highlighting those recommendations which have since been reflected in Government policy, for example bringing forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and increasing capacity for renewable energy. However, the response does not mention the majority of the Assembly’s recommendations, for example reducing the consumption of meat and dairy, implementing carbon labelling on products, and increasing the transparency between Government and big energy companies. The response also fails to discuss the areas of announced policy which directly contradict with the findings of the Assembly, other than a brief mention of why the Government doesn’t intend to introduce frequent flyer levies. In particular, the Assembly disagreed with the widespread use of nuclear energy and using fossil fuels with greenhouse gas removal methods in the future. The Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan describes an increase in the usage of both energy types, with no mention of the Climate Assembly’s concerns. We asked Minister Trevelyan about how the Government will bring the public on board if these controversial technologies are continued to be utilised, however she was unable to tell us.
33.CAUK members and the majority of witnesses to our inquiry have been clear that the Government should publish a detailed response to the CAUK recommendations. 88% of Assembly members voted for the recommendation that there should be a “follow-up on the outcomes of the Assembly covering what has been taken into account, what hasn’t and why”. Nearly two thirds of those who submitted written evidence to our inquiry separately called for a response from Government, several of whom recommended that the Government should publish a formal response to the CAUK report, with some specifically requesting a comprehensive point-by-point response to each of the recommendations in the CAUK report.
34.A formal response to the CAUK report would benefit not only the Assembly members, organisations, and citizens keen to understand how the Government is using the CAUK’s recommendations, but also the Government itself. Publication of a point-by-point response to the CAUK recommendations would demonstrate that the Government is listening to, and considering, public preferences for achieving net zero, and that it recognises the need to engage and consult the public on options to deliver a transition that is expected to have a direct and visible impact on everyday life over the coming decades.
35.While the Government has adopted CAUKs recommendations in a number of policy areas such as offshore wind energy, and switching to electric vehicles, this partial response means it is difficult to understand or assess the overall impact that CAUK has had on Government policy. To enhance public trust in, and support for, the net zero transition, the Government should also communicate how policy decisions are taking account of citizens’ views, including CAUK recommendations. This is particularly important when the Government’s policies differ from the Assembly’s recommendations. The UK Branch, of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation said that:
To sustain public trust and engagement in citizens assemblies, government need to take seriously the recommendations that emerge from such deliberative processes. The extent to which the Government does so will inspire confidence in the public, whose own actions are essential to meeting key environmental goals in the transition to net zero.
36.Witnesses to our inquiry did not expect the Government to accept all of the Assembly’s recommendations, but they did expect the Government to be able to provide explanations for why it is—or is not—taking certain recommendations forward. Involve noted:
It is not the case that a good response from the Government requires it to accept all the assembly’s recommendations. The public’s preferences are one important source of input to policy decisions, but they are not the only ones. However, it is the case that the Government should have a good reason for not accepting a recommendation from the Assembly and that this should be clearly explained in its response.
37.We were pleased to secure a commitment from the Minister, Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, that the Government will formally respond to each recommendation in the Assembly’s report. However, we were disappointed that in follow up correspondence she indicated that the Government’s written submission to this inquiry, along with her oral evidence, responds to “all the major areas of the Climate Assembly Report and [their] views on them”. We disagree with this assessment. Whilst the Government’s written evidence for this inquiry does contain some detail on areas where the Government has made progress on implementing CAUK’s recommendations, it fails to mention many of the Assembly’s key recommendations, and in particular it addresses few of the Assembly recommendations which have not been adopted by the Government. These omissions demonstrate an inadequate commitment to, and engagement with, the wealth of material included in the CAUK report. This not only potentially undermines public trust in, and support for, the net zero transition, but also shows a short-sighted lack of engagement with, and substantive consideration of, policy recommendations which have public support, and could play a crucial part in achieving the Government’s stated aim of achieving net zero by 2050.
38.We are disappointed that the Minister has rowed back on the commitment given to us in oral evidence that the Government would provide a comprehensive and point-by-point response to the recommendations in CAUK’s ambitious report. We do not consider the Government’s submission and the Minister’s oral evidence to this Committee as being sufficient in this regard and ask the Minister to honour her commitment to provide a full response.
40. This point-by-point response to Climate Assembly UK’s recommendations should provide a full assessment of which recommendations will be accepted in full or in part and which will be rejected, along with an explanation for why the recommendation is being rejected. We expect this response to be published before the Assembly’s one-year anniversary in September and as part of the Government’s response to this report.
15 Climate Change Committee, , June 2021, p 8
16 Climate Change Committee, , June 2021
19 Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report, , Session 2019–21, HC 1035, December 2020, para 3.23–3.28; Committee of Public Accounts, Forty-Sixth Report for Session 2019–21, , HC 935, para 18–20; Climate Change Committee, (December 2020), Climate Change Committee, , June 2021
20 Climate Change Committee, , June 2021, p 17
21 Lancaster Environment Centre ()
22 , March 2021
23 Climate Change Committee, , June 2021, p 17, p 29; Committee of Public Accounts, Forty-Sixth Report for Session 2019–21, , HC 935, p 3
24 COP26 (the 26th Conference of Parties) is the UN climate summit that the UK will host in Glasgow in November 2021.
25 HM Government, ‘’, accessed 21 June 2021
26 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
27 Public urged to Planet For Our Planet in a new campaign launched today, Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs press release, , 5 June 2021
29 Lancaster Environment Centre (), Abundance Investment (), Paul Johns (Member at Public) (), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch (), Citizens Advice (), Ombudsman Services (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (), , , [Signe Norberg], ,
30 Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch ()
31 [Rebecca Willis]
32 Pattie, C., Seyd, P. and Whiteley P. (2004) Citizenship in Britain Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p.86
33 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
34 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
36 Climate Change Committee, , June 2021 p 192
37 Bang the Table, Deliberative Engagement Builds Trust within Community, accessed 25 June 2021
38 E.g. Luskin, Robert C., James S. Fishkin, and Roger Jowell. “Considered opinions: Deliberative polling in Britain”, British Journal of Political Science, vol 32 (2002) pp 455–487; Barabas, Jason. “How deliberation affects policy opinions”, American Political Science Review, vol 98 (2004), pp 687–701.; James Fishkin, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation, (Oxford 2009)
39 From the website - “Two academics – Dr Stephen Elstub from Newcastle University and Professor David Farrell of University College Dublin – will undertake the broad evaluation of Climate Assembly UK. Stephen and David are both specialists in what is known as ‘deliberative democracy’. This includes the use of citizens’ assemblies as a complement and aid to the work of MPs and other elected representatives. Following the assembly’s weekend sessions, Stephen and David will consider a number of different aspects of Climate Assembly UK to determine how effective it was, and whether there are any key learnings to use in future citizens’ assemblies. In particular, the evaluation will focus on how assembly members were recruited, how expertise was presented to assembly members, how individuals’ views evolved during the four weekends, and the assembly’s impact on Parliament.”, accessed 28 June 2021; Their written evidence to the inquiry is: Stephen Elstub (Reader in British Politics at Newcastle University and Study of Parliament Group Member); Professor David Farrell (Professor of Politics at University College Dublin); Patricia Mockler (PhD Candidate at Queens University Belfast) ().
40 Most respondents to the survey work in either academia, business, a Governmental group, a trade union, or a campaign group, and over 93% of those surveyed focus on climate change or sustainability at work. 18% of the respondents had spoken at the assembly, and 54% had attended a briefing about the assembly’s recommendations.
41 The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (); UK100 (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (); Scotland’s Climate Assembly ()
43 Sustrans (), National Farmers’ Union (NFU) (), OFTEC ()
44 National Farmers’ Union (NFU) ()
46 The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
47 Lancaster Environment Centre ()
48 Policy Connect (), OFTEC (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (); HM Government, , November 2020; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Energy White Paper: Powering our Net Zero Future, , December 2020
49 Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (), Energy Systems Catapult (), The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), [Rebecca Willis]
50 [Rebecca Willis]
51 , The Guardian, 7 December 2018; , BBC, 13 June 2021;
52 Abundance Investment (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) ()
53 Abundance Investment ()
54 IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) ()
55 Energy Systems Catapult (), The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (), Policy Connect (),
56 Energy Systems Catapult ()
57 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (). The Government’s response to this inquiry covered only 30% (39 out of 130) of the recommendations listed in Climate Assembly UK executive summary.
58 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ()
59 Climate Assembly UK, (10 September 2020), p 24, p
60 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Energy White Paper: Powering our Net Zero Future, , December 2020
62 Climate Assembly UK, (10 September 2020), p 31
63 Dr Alan Renwick (Deputy Director and Associate Professor in British Politics at Constitution Unit, University College London) (), Sustainability First (), Sustrans (), Citizens Advice (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (), The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), Stephen Elstub (Reader in British Politics at Newcastle University and Study of Parliament Group Member); Professor David Farrell (Professor of Politics at University College Dublin); Patricia Mockler (PhD Candidate at Queens University Belfast) (), Paul Johns (Member at Public) (), Energy and Utilities Alliance (), Abundance Investment (), UK100 (), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch (), Food, Farming and Countryside Commission ()
64 Dr Alan Renwick (Deputy Director and Associate Professor in British Politics at Constitution Unit, University College London) (), Sustainability First (), Sustrans (), Citizens Advice (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (), The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), Stephen Elstub (Reader in British Politics at Newcastle University and Study of Parliament Group Member); Professor David Farrell (Professor of Politics at University College Dublin); Patricia Mockler (PhD Candidate at Queens University Belfast) (), Paul Johns (Member at Public) ()
65 The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), Dr Alan Renwick (Deputy Director and Associate Professor in British Politics at Constitution Unit, University College London) (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), Stephen Elstub (Reader in British Politics at Newcastle University and Study of Parliament Group Member); Professor David Farrell (Professor of Politics at University College Dublin); Patricia Mockler (PhD Candidate at Queens University Belfast) (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) ()
66 The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) (), The Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), Paul Johns (Member at Public) (), Citizens Advice (), Sustainability First ()
67 Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch ()
68 Dr Alan Renwick (Deputy Director and Associate Professor in British Politics at Constitution Unit, University College London) (), Lancaster Environment Centre (), Stephen Elstub (Reader in British Politics at Newcastle University and Study of Parliament Group Member); Professor David Farrell (Professor of Politics at University College Dublin); Patricia Mockler (PhD Candidate at Queens University Belfast) (), IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) ()
69 The Involve Foundation (‘Involve’) ()
71 See annex at end of report
72 Some example Assembly recommendations which the Government has failed to acknowledge are: a reduction in meat and dairy consumption; implementing carbon labelling on products, food, and drinks; increasing the transparency between Government and big energy companies; getting to net zero without pushing emissions abroad;