Shrinking footprints

This report from UK think tank Resolution Foundation looks at the impacts of the net zero transition on households and consumption.

The 2020s are set to bring a step change in climate policy, with efforts to decarbonise the UK economy beginning to impact on household consumption to a greater extent than before. Different households will be exposed to these changes in different ways, but they will come in two flavours: upfront investment now to deliver savings in years to come, and changing behaviours. This report assesses how families will face up to these challenges, looking at 4 aspects of household consumption – home heating, surface transport, diets and flying – and evaluating where government policies are currently lacking and how policy makers should assess the challenges that come as net zero policy enters a new phase.

For home heating and surface transport, although much has been made of the need to invest in heat pumps and electric vehicles, we find that it is the complementary investments in building efficiency and the public charging network that are the key living standards issue for the 2020s. Without the government catalysing large amounts of both public and private capital, low income households risk missing out on the benefits of cheaper motoring and lower energy bills. In areas where technology is unlikely to take us all the way to net zero, such as food and farming, measures to curb demand will be needed. The government appears to be banking on these changes taking place organically, but should the price incentive be needed it is vital to assess how households of different means will respond.

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