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How can policy makers support the UK to achieve a greener future?

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The UK has set the world’s most ambitious climate change target, aiming to slash emissions by 78 per cent by the time that 2035 comes around. It’s sixth Carbon Budget intends to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050, and this new target becomes enshrined in law in June. 

To meet these new commitments, the UK will need to focus on new technologies, green innovations, and pioneering businesses. As the country builds back greener, the focus will be on more electric cars, low-carbon heating, renewable electricity and reducing meat and dairy intake. For the first time ever, climate law will be extended to cover international aviation and shipping and have a significant impact on how we travel. In short, it’s a pretty big deal.

Guided by these pledges, policy makers need to focus on educating the public and working with the private sector to make these climate change commitments a reality. So, how can policy makers support the transition to a greener future?

Renewable energy 

The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind, and to deliver on the climate change target the government needs to build on these existing strengths.

If the country is to expand on how the power of wind energy can support businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, and the public too, policy makers need to consider the wider societal perception of windfarms. For instance, they can cause some concerns due to their size and appearance on the landscape, so policy makers will need to ensure that there is sustained education, awareness and communication to alleviate fears and communicate benefits.  

Transport

From 2030, the UK government will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans. Support from policy makers regarding a shift to zero emission vehicles could deliver £3 billion of private investment by 2026 as well as 40,000 new jobs by 2030. Yet, policymakers must consider people’s perception of zero emission cars and the impact that switching from diesel and petrol will have on the public.

Policy makers will also have a key role in exploring and understanding the infrastructure that is needed to allow the public to feel confident in switching to electric vehicles. Investing in a policy of communication and education to relay any fears and extol the benefits to be gained by making the transition will help ease the move (and wider acceptance) towards zero emission vehicles.

The new climate change proposal also encourages people to drive less and walk and cycle more. This requires a whole change of mindset which will need support. To make informed decisions, policy makers need to consider where and how investments are best spent. Initiatives such expanding cycle networks, better public transport services and low-traffic neighbourhoods will help ease the UK into a more car-free lifestyle.

Aviation

For the first time, emissions for international aviation and shipping have been included in the Carbon Budget. Aviation accounts for 2.5 per cent of all global carbon emissions and it is time to make a change. Policy makers are now able help position the UK as a leader of low carbon travel and transform the country’s view on air travel

As well as liaising with the big players of the aviation industry, policy makers need to build awareness of the effect individuals have. Airlines, government and individuals all need to take responsibility for their actions regarding climate change. Educating the public and encouraging initiatives which support alternatives to air travel, such as long-distance train travel, will be vital. Policy makers will need to focus on activities to increase the public’s awareness of climate change and the impact of their actions have.

Policy makers should seek to put the UK at the forefront of global markets as a climate leader. Establishing a policy framework which supports the climate change commitments in all sectors is critical to making positive action.  The sixth Carbon Budget creates a huge opportunity for the UK to transform its climate change policies and become a global leader of positive change.

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