Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2006-07

13 September 2007

13 September 2007

Public sidelined in battle against climate change

Climate change: the ₓcitizen's agendaâ‚? - Report published

Government is failing fully to involve the British people in the fight to tackle Climate Change. The stream of Ministerial speeches and initiatives urging Citizen engagement with the issue are not, as a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee confirms, being backed up with adequate resources to enable individuals and community groups to fully play their part in helping to reduce Carbon emissions.

In its report Climate Change: the Citizen's Agenda, published today, the EFRA select committee concludes the Government is doing little to help the many individuals and community groups keen to make an effort to tackle climate change and cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee believes that more needs to be done to co-ordinate publicly funded messages and strategies on climate change so that people are not left feeling powerless to â‚Ëœdo their bit'.

When practical help and information is available it is often too complicated and risks losing public engagement. The Committee also criticises as ₓtoo confusingâ‚? the plethora of pledge schemes, such as that advertised by the Energy Saving Trust to ₓsave your 20 per cent.â‚?.

MPs wants to see the Government do much more actively to encourage individuals and communities to reduce emissions, and also to put in place measures to ensure that only the most climate-friendly goods and services are available to buy.

The Government's own studies have shown that making households more energy efficient is the single most cost effective way of cutting carbon emissions. For example, standby power now accounts for 7 per cent of household electricity and leads to 3 million tonnes of GHG emissions in the UK every year.

The Committee say the Government must drive forward improved product standards to eliminate this waste and to consider taxing energy inefficient consumer electronics and lighting. It also wants the Government to require all new houses to be built to a â‚Ëœzero carbon' standard well before the present target of 2016.

Much more also needs to be done to improve the credibility of ₓgreen taxesâ‚?. Revenue-raising taxes should not simply be put in a ₓgreen wrapperâ‚? to make them more palatable for the public, says the Committee. Green taxes should be used to invest in other carbon emission reducing measures. The Government should also allow individuals an additional â‚Ëœgreen' ISA allowance to invest in community emissions reductions projects and technologies.

The Committee wants more incentives to encourage individuals or communities to generate their own ₓgreenâ‚? power which could be fed into the national grid. One way of doing this would be to require power companies to pay more for energy which comes from renewable sources by offering attractive â‚Ëœfeed-in tariffs' for household and community generation of renewable energy, similar to the system in Germany.

Among the other measures the Committee calls for are:

₠A central Government strategy to help local authorities develop local greenhouse gas reduction programmes. At present, community and local government initiatives are often taking place in spite, of rather than because of, Government activity.

₠Building regulations to be made more demanding so that consideration must be given to incorporating renewable technologies, such as solar thermal systems, as part of planning applications.

₠A stamp duty rebate to home-buyers who improve the energy performance of their property within one year of purchase.

₠More informative energy billing within a year so that consumers are aware of how much energy they are using.

₠Much more ambitious Carbon Emissions Reduction Targets for energy suppliers-the existing targets are far too undemanding.

₠The Government must lead by example and improve the energy efficiency of public buildings and infrastructure; and Defra itself should lead the public sector by its own example.

Commenting on the report, the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee the Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said:

ₓIf Britain wants to maintain its credibility as a member of the ₓTop Tableâ‚? on climate change it must do more to fully engage its citizens in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

Government must empower communities and individuals to help play their part in enabling Britain to meet the exacting emissions reduction targets set in the proposed Climate Change Bill. Ministers should be mindful of the advice given to the Committee by Sir David Attenborough when he said that in wartime wasting food was wrong and now we needed a similar mentality in that wasting energy was wrong.

If that waste is to be cut out then Ministers need to make less speeches on climate change and do more to enable individuals, local authorities, house builders and power suppliers to maximise their contribution to emissions reduction as quickly as possible.

This report shows Government how that goal can be achieved.â‚?


1. For media inquiries, or to arrange bids for interviews with the Chairman, Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, and other Members of the EFRA Committee, please call Laura Kibby on 07917 488 557.

2. For information about the Committee's inquiry, please call Chris Stanton on 020 7219 3263. The full report, and the written and oral evidence taken in the inquiry ,will be available on the Committee's website soon after 00.01am on 13 September 2007. Website: www.parliament.uk/efracom

3. To view the uncorrected transcripts of evidence taken in this inquiry please see the Committee's â‚ËœClimate change: the ₓcitizen's agendaâ‚?' inquiry page at: