Meeting the UK's climate targets will require changes to all our lives, from the way we travel and heat our homes, to what we eat and drink. The transition will be successful only if government works with people, rather than imposing solutions from on high.
In this joint paper with the Institute for Government, we set out recommendations for when and how policy-makers should involve citizens and residents in climate policy-making.
We warn 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 design.
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 or that of similar initiatives. 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.
Our 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.
We also draw out lessons from existing public engagement - on climate change and beyond - that should inform the government's approach.