Net zero doesn't mean cutting out steaks and flights, top climate adviser says

The change to net zero won't require a dramatic shift. Credit: PA

The move to net zero will not require a "huge shift" in everyday lives, with people still able to fly off on holiday, a top climate adviser has said after admitting he and his colleagues may have pushed too hard for a radical transformation.

Speaking as he leaves the role after six years, Climate Change Committee chief executive Chris Stark said people’s lives would not be that different in 2050, the target date for ending the UK’s contribution to climate change by cutting emissions to zero overall.

He said politicians needed to show bold leadership as several parties in the UK rolled back their commitments to net zero in recent months.

Although tackling climate change often features highly on polls of voter's priorities it's been difficult to convince the population of the costs and changes people need to make to meet the targets.

Asked how he thought people’s lives would be changed by the move to net zero, he said: “I think I’m as guilty as anyone in the green space, of often presenting the move to net zero as radical, or a major shift or transformative stuff.

Most people will be living similar lives in 2050. Credit: PA

“Of course if you work in the energy sector, it is those things, but if you’re a person going about your day-to-day life in Britain right now, I don’t think your day-to-day life will be that different in 2050 when we hit net zero.

“You will still be driving your car, you’ll still be warming your house, you’ll have a job which is probably very similar in its nature to the one you have now.

“I wonder if the way into this is to say this is just the normal course of things, it’s not frightening, you can still fly off on holiday each year, and you can have a steak if you want to. There’s not a huge shift here.”

He said he was not dismissing the need for change, but suggested the idea of a big shift had been pushed too hard, when it was just going to play out in a “much more normal way”.

He added the UK had led so much of the early part of the transition, that “it seems weird that we want to step off now” but acknowledged the next period would be “tricky” because money was tight.

But he also argued the investments would be replacing dirty assets with clean ones and would pay back fairly quickly.

Mr Stark described Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s speech last year, rowing back on climate targets, including pushing back the date for phasing out sales of conventional cars, as “unhelpful”, as a faster transition to clean vehicles is a key part of meeting the UK’s 2030 goals for cutting emissions.

He played down the idea this year’s general election would be a “climate election”, he said the next parliament would be critical to delivering action on cutting emissions from buildings and industry.

This meant it was important to know what each party planned to do, he said, though he suggested it was no longer “politically convenient” for parties to put climate as central to their manifesto.

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