Trewin Restorick, CEO and Founder of Hubbub, considers the ‘major changes’ we need to see from political and corporate leaders to reach net zero.
A Europe-wide survey has revealed that although citizens are alarmed by the Climate Crisis few are willing to make significant lifestyle changes. This should come as no surprise. In the run up to COP26, Boris Johnson pledged that net zero targets could be hit ‘without so much as a hair shirt in sight’ as technology will provide the answer. From the other end of the debate, green activists proclaim that individual action is a distraction as fundamental systemic change is required.
The harsh reality is that the scale of the climate challenge is so vast that we need both systemic change and personal action. This requires political leaders to be brave enough to voice the importance of changing diets, consumption patterns and travel habits whilst also introducing policies that make it cheaper and easier for people to change routines.
New research from Hubbub undertaken with 4,000 people in the run-up to COP26, shows how far we need to go to persuade people that lifestyle change is required. It revealed that over three quarters of people don’t understand what net zero is whilst just one in five know what action they can take to reduce their impact on the environment.
Fundamentally the public is baffled by the language and confused as to what they can do personally. To shift the dynamic, we need to see six major changes from our political and corporate leaders.
The harsh reality is that the scale of the climate challenge is so vast that we need both systemic change and personal action.
Provide greater clarity on what personal action will make a difference
The Europe-wide survey revealed that people prioritised actions that were already established habits or for which they bore little personal responsibility such as increasing recycling or reversing deforestation.
Actions that could have greater climate impact and that had a more profound impact on lifestyles such as reducing meat consumption, cutting plane travel and lessoning energy consumption were far less appealing
Political and business leaders need to be more honest about where individual change is required and seek to make these changes as easy to take as possible.
Make change easier and cheaper
The scale of change needed is vast and responsibility cannot be placed solely on individual action. Government and companies need to step-up making it easy and cost-effective for people to do the right thing. This is currently not the case. Over half of the 4,000 people Hubbub surveyed felt that government is not doing enough to reduce climate change.
Use simple language
Hubbub’s research found that over a third of people said they would like clearer guidance on what would make a difference and where to start. A quarter wanted better understanding of the impact climate change will have on their life and the people they know. This confusion is being fuelled by technocratic language with targets being set far into the future many miles from the daily realities people face.
Government and companies need to step-up making it easy and cost-effective for people to do the right thing.
Link climate action with wider social and financial benefits
Individual climate action is perceived as expensive and most likely to adversely hit poorer sections of the community. Yet there are many changes that deliver both social and environmental benefits. Redistributing surplus food, refurbishing electronic gadgets and maximising the lifespan of clothing all deliver carbon savings and help people struggling to make ends meet.
Promote collective action across society
The research revealed that over half of people feel that those around them are not taking climate change seriously enough. This can be disheartening and demotivating. The scale of the challenge requires all of us from all sections of society to do our bit.
Yes, the scale of the challenge we face is daunting and the consequences of not acting are alarming but that doesn’t mean that campaigns must be doom ladened.
COP26 has been held up as a moment when the world must grasp the chance to tackle climate change. Currently there is a danger that it will pass un-noticed by a large percentage of the population and will make no difference to the way they live their lives. This will only change if we see a shift in the political narrative highlighting how government will help all of us to make the significant changes required.