I was asked to give evidence to the House Of Lords' Committee on Climate Change and the Environment in March 2022. During the two-hour session I was struck by how eager the members were to listen to me and my fellow experts and sometimes surprised.
Peers were seeking to understand how behaviour change from the public can have a role in achieving the Government’s net-zero goals. Their questions led to a lively discussion about what works and what doesn’t. For me it was also a chance to press home the need for a public information campaign as I've called for on numerous occasions.
According to the Government’s own Climate Change Committee (CCC) nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of the Government’s proposals will require the public to alter their behaviour.
That’s a big shift. But the consensus from those of us giving evidence was that this is indeed possible because citizens wants to do something to tackle climate change. However action depends on access to impartial, factual information and swift, effective action from politicians and businesses.
As my fellow witness Trewin Restorick, Chief Executive of environment charity Hubbub, said: “We are operating in a sea of confusion among citizens. They have no idea what is going on.”
I argued: “The public is ready, we are pushing at an open door, and things such as insulation and the national retrofit scheme will not work unless the public know the benefits because there is a level of disruption and cost. We need that public information campaign with clear targets and number one has to be insulation because we are in a cost-of-living crisis.”
Committee Chair Baroness Parminter asked if businesses were facilitating changes to meet environmental goals because they were responding to consumer demand, had seen a marketing opportunity or were being persuaded by Government.
Professor Peattie pointed out spending on sustainable food and household products doubled between 2010 and 2020. He said “A large chunk of that is consumer led.”
Trewin Restorik, mentioned the “Attenborough effect” on the public using less plastic and companies having to catch up.
But he added that as a campaigner: “You feel like you are a brave soul fighting against the stream because government is not on your side, and when you look at the scale of the climate impact, you think, “Why are you not helping? Why are you not enabling society to see that we are on an unsustainable path?” I could list initiative after initiative that consecutive Governments have started; they have started to work, and then they have gone. I can see no desire in central government to truly make this happen.” This rang so true to me and no doubt anyone who has been working away and often disparing at decisions taken by Government ministers.
Then the actual Duke Of Wellington asked about the impact of shifts in behaviour on low-income families. He gave the example of reducing the number of flights people take.
He said: “It is the aspiration of many families, whatever their income level, to have a foreign holiday once a year. That is quite a natural thing that people want to do. Are you going to put a higher tax on aeroplane flights?”
Witness Professor Ken Peattie, an expert in marketing and strategy at Cardiff Business School, argued: “People do enjoy foreign holidays but we should think of it this way: if you had a friend who you knew was financially living beyond their means to a point where they were facing disaster, you would be asking them to cut back on their expenditure.”
I added that 50 per cent of people in the UK take no flights and 15 per cent take 70 per cent of all flights. If you fly first class to Australia you are emitting an average person’s annual carbon footprint. And the effects of rising temperatures impact lower income households more severely, for example if you live in a flood risk area with no insurance and no friends with big homes who can house you while you repair your own home.
I was delighted when Lord Lucas asked: “Could we subsidise Which? and One Home to give a really effective and easy source of information as to exactly how providers of products were responding?”
Obviously, as a not-for profit social enterprise, I would love government to part-fund One Home because a public information campaign will require significant resources to ensure the reach and duration are sufficient to enable the changes required in the next ten years throughout the UK.
Lord Browne of Ladyton asked about scale and suggested talking further with One Home because of how many people we reach.
I argued that we need to make going green desirable and normal. “A great example of that is the Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, if you give people the opportunity, they will buy it and make that shift. It is about making it normal, and the only way that can really be delivered is by the Government setting the framework, then businesses delivering it to the consumer.’
We covered so many subjects; the role of taxation, flooding, energy-efficient housing, working from home, the cost of oat milk, mortgages, wind farms, lobbying from vested interests, the circular economy, the failure of the green home grant, travel infrastructure and even the positioning of eco products in supermarkets.
Witnesses Paul Ellis, Chief Executive of the Ecology Building Society and Hugo Spowers, Founder of zero emission car company Riversimple, also made excellent points.
Lord Bishop of Oxford called our evidence: “Really helpful and inspiring” and Baroness Parminter summed up the meeting as “a fascinating session”.
I certainly came away thinking the committee was pleased to hear we felt the public is ready to act. It was a privilege to be invited to Parliament and I felt a real buzz after the session that change could happen. Let’s hope our collective evidence will help the Committee press home the importance of impartial information in changing public behaviour to reach net zero emissions.
You can watch the session here and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did taking part: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/e1ea19b3-5ef4-4034-a586-f9f06e92349a
Today I learned what it’s like to be at the centre of a Twitter storm.
“do gooders like Angela Terry believe it is her right to put sanctions in place for everyone else!”
“not all there are you really?”
“you have to be kidding..”
And frankly, much ruder comments I’m not going to repeat here.
And this furore was all over humble conservatories!
Millions of people in the UK have them, and as Good Morning Britain viewers saw today I am one of those. Our home came with one when we bought it.
A film crew arrived at my home at 7am the morning. The producers specifically asked us to film from this room, which is rarely used as it tends to be quite cold in winter and too hot in the summer.
I was invited on to GMB to discuss new planning regulations that are coming into place around conservatories – rules will restrict the designs of some extensions and new builds in the future. It’s a controversial move - kitchens with bi-fold doors are a fixture on all the TV design shows and many people save for years to afford to build conservatories.
But as I explained to Susanna Reid on GMB, these policies are about making NEW homes more suitable for the unbearably hot summers we will face very soon in this country. In July 2021 all four nations recorded their hottest temperatures on record.
Increasingly extreme heat will bring health issues for pregnant women, young children and older people. By 2050, every other year could bring heatwave-like temperatures so we have to plan for the impacts of climate change.
Conservatories concentrate heat which builds through the day - that’s why lots of homeowners use them for their tropical plants.
It’s also why a lot of people are finding their beautiful, hard-earned extensions too hot in the summer.
The option of air conditioning will increase energy use and therefore carbon pollution, which in turn increases global temperatures so that doesn’t make sense.
What advisers have set out in the new regulations is that new buildings at risk of overheating, if perhaps they face South towards the daytime sun, should have smaller windows, or built-in blinds or increased ventilation to keep people safe.
At least 300,000 homes are due to be built across the UK each year. It makes sense that those are fit for purpose for decades to come, rather than retrofit them later, which costs a lot more. Already one in five homes over heat in the UK, even during relatively mild summers.
These aren’t huge changes but they are important if we are going to create long-lasting, high-quality housing stock that will manage the increasing temperatures we will face.
Today Twitter and many articles on line thought differently. One article has over 2,000 comments and 500 shares! If only climate change reports about sea level rise or food security could achieve such public engagement levels! I was accused of advocating for the destruction of all conservatories and extensions. That was not the case. The debate was cut short to interview the health minister, Sajid Javid but had I had more time on GMB this morning, I would have explained if you have an existing conservatory, like me, no-one is suggesting you should knock it down.
You can however, make it safer and more comfortable by using heat reflective and solar control window films which adhere to the existing glass. These can cost about £40 a roll and are a short-term solution. Overheating is such an issue there are companies who specialise in fitting the shields and other remedies but at a cost.
I founded the consumer website One Home to help empower people to make small, affordable changes in their daily lives, as together we can make a big difference.
I appreciate there are many arguments still to be won. However, despite the uproar today, I will keep advocating for greater climate action because simply put, everything we know and love depends on us cutting pollution and adapting to three degrees of warming with the urgency that the science shows us is essential.
To see more simple and easy tips for things we can all do to be more eco-friendly and protect the things we love please visit onehome.org.uk
The Great British Public are on it. They know we are racing towards climate catastrophe, but they need to know how to help pull on the brakes.
How do they cut through the noise and learn how to adapt to extreme weather that threatens homes and children’s futures? How do they learn which small lifestyle tweaks add up to meaningful change?
Count Us In is a community of people and organisations taking practical steps to protect what they love from climate change before it is too late.
My organization, One Home is a Count Us In founding partner and I am really excited about what we can achieve together.
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