Efforts to drive down climate emissions should deliver a “people’s dividend” of improvements to lives, homes, jobs and transport, a report has urged.
The report from think tank IPPR’s cross-party Environmental Justice Commission says the transition to a low-carbon world must be fair and involve people directly – or the public will wield an effective “veto” on it.
It makes more than 100 recommendations, including an upgraded local public transport system that is free at the point of use by 2030 – starting with free bus travel by 2025 – to make green travel easy.
It also proposes a £7.5 billion a year “GreenGo” scheme – akin to the help-to-buy programme – to provide a one-stop shop of loans and grants to help households insulate their homes and switch to green heating and transport.
It urges the Government to hugely scale up public investment for climate and nature action, raising it by £30 billion a year, and to tackle the two crises together, while all workers in high carbon industries should be offered retraining opportunities.
The commission is making its final recommendations after conducting a series of citizens’ juries around the country, with thousands of hours of discussion, on how to shift to a greener world.
The UK has a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” by 2050, which requires cutting pollution to as near to zero as possible and offsetting any that remains with measure such as planting trees.
The IPPR report comes as the UK prepares to host crucial global climate talks in Glasgow, and in the wake of warnings from Government climate advisers that ministers are not doing enough to meet the goals to cut emissions.
While concerns have been raised that achieving net zero – which will include moves such as shifting away from gas boilers and petrol and diesel cars – will hit the poor, the report says it can and must deliver benefits such as cheaper energy bills, warmer homes, and improving health.
And the shift to net zero could create 1.7 million jobs by 2035 in sectors from transports to retrofitting homes, IPPR analysis suggests.
The citizens’ juries, which took place in Tees Valley and County Durham, the South Wales Valleys, Thurrock in Essex, and Aberdeenshire, called for national leadership to drive the change, in partnership with business and unions, the report said.
People also wanted the green choice to be the easy one, especially for those on low incomes, and for the transition to be delivered in a fair way, such as protecting the poor from the costs of changes, according to the report.
And as people’s everyday lives are increasingly affected, an approach that is owned and informed by the public is crucial to a successful transition, it said.
Ewen, a juror from Aberdeenshire, said: “It’s got to be fair. If it’s unfair, then people won’t buy into it, and you need people to buy into it. People have got to be involved in transition, because it’s all about people.”
Labour MP and former environment secretary Hilary Benn, who is co-chair of the Environmental Justice Commission, said: “People must be at the heart of the UK’s rapid transition to net zero, or else – to put it bluntly – it won’t succeed.
“Government must clearly set out the broad direction of travel and provide the resources and regulation needed to get there, but everyone affected, from workers in industries that will have to change to communities across the UK, must have greater power to take decisions that affect them.”
Former Tory MP Laura Sandys, another co-chair of the commission, said: “The UK’s drive to net zero is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be seized.
“This should be a positive moment for everybody – while making the far-reaching changes needed to combat the climate and nature crises, we can create good new jobs, build the businesses of the future and improve people’s health, their day-to-day surroundings and their wellbeing, everywhere.”
Its recommendations range from a legal minimum energy efficiency standard for social rented homes to prioritising training 300,000 jobs in home retrofits and low-carbon heat, and support for UK towns and cities to reallocate road space to cycling, walking and green space.
It also calls for all schoolchildren in households receiving universal credit to get healthy, sustainable free school meals, national targets for eating more fruit and veg and less meat and dairy, and for all foods associated with deforestation removed from UK supply chains before 2030.
There are also recommendations for a law that all business and policy decisions take account of their impact on future generations, granting English local authorities new powers over economic strategy, transport and planning and giving the public a direct say over how local budgets are spent.
Responding to the report, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “We can create a fairer society as we tackle this emergency – with warmer, better insulated homes, better public transport, clean air and more green spaces.
“The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time.
“But there is a yawning chasm between the Government’s lofty promises and its delivery. They must step up and deliver the green transition that is an urgent necessity for people and planet.”
A Government spokesman said: “Tackling climate change must be a shared endeavour, and our ambition puts affordability and fairness at its heart, hand in hand with supporting economic growth and prosperity across the UK.”
The spokesman said the Government continued to engage households and businesses in efforts to eliminate the UK’s contribution to climate change, including running deliberative dialogues to understand the public’s view and help shape policy in areas such as homes, heating, food and transport.