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Climate Assembly calls for 'strong, clear leadership from Government' towards net zero

Fri 11 September 2020 | Back to news list

The citizens assembly on climate change has published its final report which sets out how the UK can meet its 2050 net zero target.The report advocates a range of measures in the road transport area including a ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2030-35, a reduction in the amount people use cars by an average of 2-5% per decade and improvements to public transport.

The report recommends changes across a broad range of sectors, from meat-and-dairy consumption and air travel through to zero-carbon heating and electricity generation.

Six Select Committees of the House of Commons commissioned the citizens’ assembly to understand public preferences on how the UK should tackle climate change because of the impact these decisions will have on people’s lives. The citizens' assembly involved a representative sample of 120 members of the UK population who were asked over a series of meetings and weekend gatherings (amounting to 6,000 hours of assembly sessions), how the UK should meet its net zero emissions commitment with detailed recommendations across ten areas including: how we travel; what we eat and how we use the land; what we buy; heat and energy use in the home; how we generate our electricity; and greenhouse gas removals.

In a statement opening the report, Assembly members said that it is “imperative that there is strong and clear leadership from Government” that should “forge a cross-party consensus that allows for certainty, long-term planning and a phased transition” and stress that “now is not the time for scoring party political points.” 

In terms of road transport, the citizens' assembly members called for the following (brackets show percentage of members that agree or strongly agree with the policy compared with those that disagree or strongly disagree):

Moving quickly to low-carbon vehicles:

  • Government investment in low carbon buses and trains (91%/6%)
  • Quickly stop selling the most polluting vehicles (86%/11%)
  • Grants for businesses and people to buy low-carbon cars (74%/9%)
  • Car scrappage scheme (66%/9%)
  • Advertising restrictions on the most polluting cars (58%/15%)

Discouraging car ownership and use:

  • Localisation (72%/20%)
  • Car clubs (59%/11%)
  • Charging to use the roads (56%/39%)
  • Closing roads to cars (53%/23%)

Increasing the use of public and active transport:

  • Adding new bus routes and more frequent services (86%/9%)
  • Making public transport cheaper (83%/14%)
  • Bringing public transport back under government control (75%/11%)
  • Investing in cycling and scootering facilities (70%/9%)
  • Increasing investment to make buses faster and more reliable (66%/9%)

In general, assembly members were “more supportive of policies to improve public – as opposed to active – transport”, the report notes. Overall, the most-supported policy options were government investment in low-carbon public transport, quickly stopping selling the most polluting vehicles, and adding new bus routes and more frequent services.

Prof Jillian Anable from LowCVP member, ITS - Leeds University, was one of the transport expert leads taking part in the Citizens Assembly.

She wrote in a blog after the assembly had concluded: "...put like this, it [the assembly] does not appear to be recommending anything very different from current government thinking despite the numerous evidence-based calls for a need to go very much further... Job done, then? Nothing to see here for those responsible for implementing policies on transport decarbonisation in the UK? No. It would be a gross injustice to the considerable depth of understanding and passion shown by the CAUK members to portray the results as being simply aligned with current government policy.

"Given that I designed the land transport scenarios and was there to explain them and witness the debates, I’d like to show here that the results are much more radical and important than such a summary would have you believe, albeit arguably nowhere near as radical as they actually need to be."

She points to elements of the assembly's outputs that were less covered by reports and where there is divergence from current Government policy including:

  • the necessity to stop the sale straight away of the most polluting cars (such as most SUVs) 
  • an acceptance of no new road capacity until well into the 2040s requiring counteracting policies to curb traffic growth
  • the need to bring public transport under public control in order to meet the assembly's call for better services and to meet the representatives' universal criteria of a fair and affordable transition.

Prof Anable comments that these are radical and important outcomes of the assembly and deserve wider recognition. (Click here for the full article.)



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