A new report has found that a majority of the UK public is amenable to the behavioural changes needed to hit the country’s net zero targets.

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Published by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI), the report was based on a survey of 1,000 respondents. It found that 57 per cent were open to change, with 23 per cent described as net zero enthusiasts who were likely to have already altered their behaviours, and 34 per cent wanting change, but feeling they needed further empowerment to achieve it.

However, there is far from universal agreement when it comes to behavioural change around climate action. The report found that 30 per cent of people were ‘reluctant followers’, largely acknowledging that the UK must act on emissions, but not feeling personal responsibility for that action. This segment will likely only change their behaviours if forced to do so or seeing a majority of others doing it first. Finally, 13 per cent of those surveyed were classed as ‘net zero resistors’, people who don’t believe action is necessary and have no intention of doing so.

- ICE

“Net zero is a positive to embrace, rather than a problem to solve,” said Conservative MP Andrew Jones, chair of the APPGI.

“To make this critical and necessary transition, we must engage the support of the public and provide the support needed to help them make the best choices. While there are significant challenges to overcome, there are also many opportunities. We do need healthy debate about how the net zero transition will be paid for, but there will be significant economic and societal benefits from the actions we take.”

The report makes five recommendations for the government to support public behaviour change and drive the UK towards net zero targets:

  1. Provide an information hub as a single point of reference for net zero behaviour changes
  2. Address barriers – financial and otherwise - impeding things like EV and heat pump adoption
  3. Deliver blue-green natural infrastructure, such as parks, wetlands and forests, to highlight the positive tangible outcomes from the net zero transition
  4. Create clear policy frameworks outlining long-term plans for an approved pipeline of infrastructure
  5. Encourage businesses to share information around net zero-aligned capital investments

“Infrastructure professionals have a huge responsibility to improve the public’s quality of life,” said ICE president, Professor Anusha Shah.

“Part of this responsibility is bringing the public with us on the journey to net zero. To do this, we must ensure that our work is both nature and people positive. For society to change, there must be government support, and we as infrastructure professionals should play our part in catalysing the much-needed positive change. We can, and must, genuinely collaborate at all levels to create a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.”