UK Government must do more to engage with the public in designing net zero policies

Published on

3 Sep 2021


The UK government must do more to involve the public in designing policies to help the UK transition to a zero-carbon economy, says a new joint paper by the Institute for Government and Involve.

Public engagement and net zero: How government should involve citizens in climate policy making, published today, 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 the paper 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 new IfG/Involve paper 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.

Tom Sasse, Associate Director at the Institute for Government, said: “Net zero means there are some big changes coming for the country – and for people’s lives. The transition will only be a success if government gets much better at involving the public in decision making.”

Sarah Allan, Director of Capacity Building and Standards at Involve, said: “Climate Assembly UK has shown that engaging the public in policy design is possible, valuable and transformative for people’s lives. With just over 50 days to go until COP26, the government urgently needs to set out how it will unlock the energy and insights of the public to shape and deliver successful policies and ensure we can meet our climate obligations.”


Notes for editors

  • The full report is linked to at the bottom of this page. 
  • The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  • Involve is the UK's leading public participation charity. It develops, supports and campaigns for new ways to involve people in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • For more information, please contact [email protected] / 0785 031 3791 or [email protected] / 07515 505 812