Imperial College Business School expert economist joins panel discussion on Net Zero at Labour Party Conference 2022.
Dr Laure de Preux (Assistant Professor of Economics at Imperial College Business School) spoke at the Labour Party annual conference last week in Liverpool, as part of a panel discussion on ‘Net Zero and behaviour change’.
Imperial Policy Forum partnered with the Institute for Government to deliver the event, where Dr de Preux was joined by Kerry McCarthy MP (Shadow Minister Climate Change and Net Zero), Darren Jones MP (Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee), and Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh from the University of Bath.
Net Zero: How much must we change and who should take the lead?
The scale of the challenge facing the UK was laid out by Professor Whitmarsh. In order to reach our emissions commitments, the average per person carbon emissions footprint will have to fall by around 75% by 2030. To achieve these kinds of reductions, substantial changes in consumption and transport behaviours are likely to be necessary. Rather than individualising this responsibility, especially in the context of the cost of living crisis, she remarked that government leadership and policy change will be needed to play the key role.
Kerry McCarthy MP made clear Labour’s thinking on the importance of government-led development of the tools that can help communities adapt during the transition to Net Zero. She used Labour’s commitment to retrofitting homes with adequate insulation as an example of where government should take the lead. Ensuring a ‘fair’ transition will also mean government funding and support for initiatives to make sure that electric vehicles are affordable for all and that public transport alternatives to private vehicles are viable.
Darren Jones MP echoed the sentiment, arguing that waiting for the market to lead the transition to Net Zero will take too long. The role of government, he observed, is to shape the market in a way that creates incentives for behaviour change all the way through supply chains and from the producers to the consumers.
Government leadership is needed to ensure a ‘just transition’
Dr de Preux reflected on her area of expertise, the use of policy levers to deliver government-led change. She stated that the goal of any Net Zero transition policies must be to prevent the burden of transition falling on the poorest in society. The government has the capacity to design policy interventions that can deliver the win-win scenario of protecting and enhancing the environment without imposing unfair costs on those who can least afford it.
Dr de Preux also cautioned against the false dilemma of having to ‘choose’ between environment and, for example, affordability, arguing that this rhetorical device has been used to undermine environmental targets whilst failing to protect lower-income families – who will also bear a disproportionate share of the consequences of future climate change.
Imperial Policy Forum at party conferences
Imperial Policy Forum’s partnership with the Institute for Government continues at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. The College’s Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), Professor Mary Ryan, will join a panel discussing how government can deliver low-carbon technologies.
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