My Lords, it was a privilege for me to serve on the committee, even though it was a pain for its other members to have me on it, since I voted against this report. I will explain why.
Our starting point was that there are two ways to achieve net zero, both potentially necessary. One is to adopt carbon-free technologies, and the other is to adopt more frugal lifestyles, reducing the demand for carbon. The committee decided to investigate how great a role lifestyle changes could play in meeting net zero and how to motivate people to adopt them. Our call for evidence explicitly defined “behaviour change”, for the purposes of this inquiry, as
“the lifestyle changes that may be required by individuals, households, and communities”.
We did not seek evidence about adopting carbon-free technologies such as electric vehicles or heat pumps since, by definition, if they are good replacements for the present fossil-fuelled technologies, they require no behaviour change.
So we invited witnesses to give evidence about lifestyle changes, like driving less, walking or cycling more, flying less, eating less meat and shunning fast fashion. Many witnesses, and some committee members, were keen on these lifestyle changes, for reasons quite independent of reducing carbon emissions. They believe, no doubt correctly, that more frugal lifestyles would be good for our bodies and souls. That appeals to puritans, to those who love bossing people around and to eco-warriors who want us to regress to the pre-industrial world.
An early draft of our report criticised government for a lack of leadership and suggested restricting the number of flights that anyone might make. I proposed that the committee should demonstrate leadership by pledging to limit ourselves to two flights per annum. This was rejected out of hand—lifestyle changes are for them, not us. None the less, the committee was all set to proclaim that, without major lifestyle changes, Britain cannot reach net zero. Our draft criticised government for relying too much on technology change and too little on behaviour change.
Then came the inconvenient truth. We discovered that the Government’s official advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, said that 90% of the carbon reductions on the path to net zero could be achieved by adopting carbon-free technologies. A mere 10% of carbon reduction required lifestyle changes, particularly
“a shift in diets away from meat and dairy products”,
as well as reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in travel demand. Suddenly, the huge role we had imagined for behaviour change was reduced to something pretty insignificant. So what did the committee do? It voted to exclude any mention of the 10% figure, even in a footnote. I repeat: it voted to exclude that information. I wait for other members of the committee to justify that.
We needed a big figure to get a good headline, so we asked our excellent clerks to conjure up a larger figure over the Summer Recess, however loosely associated with behaviour change. They duly returned with two numbers: 63% and 32%, both of which appear in the final report. The 63% includes savings from carbon capture and storage, a fact omitted from the report, since no one would seriously associate that with behaviour change. The 32% figure mentioned by our excellent chairman as relying on savings that are the result of voluntary changes includes contributions from electric cars and heat pumps, which people will have no option but to buy from the 2030s onwards.
The justification that I was given for redefining “behaviour change” to include these technologies was that range uncertainty and recharging times require complex journey planning that is inconvenient, and heat pumps will likely leave you needing to wrap up warm in winter. That is doubtless true, but it is obviously not mentioned in the report, lest we provoke opposition to electric vehicles and heat pumps.
I have the highest respect for my noble colleagues’ integrity and sincerity, but, instead of producing evidence-based policy proposals, this report is an exercise in policy-based evidence selection. Inconvenient truths were deliberately suppressed, definitions were changed deliberately to mislead, and evidence was cited for Toggle showing location of which we had not carried out any investigations. However noble the cause, this is not the way that this House should go about producing its reports.