Public engagement and net zero

Report by Tom Sasse, Jill Rutter, and Sarah Allan: “The government must do more to involve the public in designing policies to help the UK transition to a zero-carbon economy.

This report, published in partnership with Involve, sets out recommendations for when and how policy makers should engage with citizens and residents – such as on designing taxes and subsidies to support the replacement of gas boilers or encouraging changes in diet – to deliver net zero.

But it warns there is limited government capability and expertise on public engagement and little co-ordination of activities across government. In many departments, engaging the public is not prioritised as a part of policy making.

Climate Assembly UK, organised in 2020 by parliament (not government), involved over a hundred members of the public, informed by experts, deliberating over the choices involved in the UK meeting its net zero target. But the government has not built on its success. It has yet to commit to making public engagement part of its net zero strategy, nor set out a clear plan for how it might go about it.

The report recommends that:

  • departments invest in strengthening the public engagement expertise needed to plan and commission exercises effectively
  • either the Cabinet Office or the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) take increased responsibility for co-ordinating net zero public engagement across government
  • the government use its net zero strategy, due in the autumn of this year, to set out how it intends to use public engagement to inform the design of net zero policies
  • the independent Climate Change Committee should play a greater role in advising government on what public engagement to commission….(More)”.