Understanding Net Zero: A Consumer Perspective

Published: 17 April 2020

A recent report by Energy Systems Catapult found Net Zero by 2050 is possible if the UK supports innovation and scale-up across three essential areas – Low Carbon Technology, Land Use and Lifestyle.

Following this, our latest report Understanding Net Zero: Consumer Perspective comes from research on consumers and climate change.

 

Consumers and Climate Change

New research by Energy Systems Catapult has found that while 75% of people believe climate change is a serious threat, they are still unclear as to which activities in their lives emit carbon – with only 49% realising natural gas heating contributes to carbon emissions.

As part of the Innovating to Net Zero project that recently modelled 100s of potential pathways to achieve 2050 carbon emissions targets – over 2,000 people were surveyed and focus groups conducted to understand public attitudes, including:

  • Perceptions of climate change, its severity and what activity contributes to it
  • Attitudes towards low carbon technologies and behaviours in heating, diet and transport

This report goes alongside a comment piece by our Consumer Insight Manager on consumer’s relationship to net zero and climate change.

 

Net Zero: Consumers, Energy and Carbon Emissions

Most people believe that climate change is a big problem (75%) and accept they have a personal responsibility to do something about it (77%). But this concern does not necessarily translate into understanding the biggest sources of carbon emissions or the actions that will make the most difference to cutting them.

What do you think about climate change?

  • 75% of people believe climate change is a global emergency
  • 84% of people think Government should do something about climate change
  • 77% of people think individuals should take some responsibility

Choose all sources you think produce emissions that contribute to climate change?

  • 77% of people said transport – which is responsible for 27% of household emissions
  • 67% of people said air travel – 12% of household emissions
  • 53% of people said household waste – 3% of household emissions
  • 49% of people said agriculture – 18% of household emissions
  • 49% of people said gas central heating – 31% of household emissions

What actions would people consider taking to reduce their carbon emissions?

  • 41% of people would be willing to cut red meat and 29% dairy intake – by a quarter
  • 34% of people that flew last year would be willing to fly less often in the year ahead
  • 22% of people would consider switching to an electric car in the next year
  • Less than 20% of people would consider switching to low carbon heating

Which actions have people taken already?

  • 86% of people are recycling everything they can
  • 71% of people are trying to reduce the amount of single use plastic
  • 36% of people had reduced red meat consumption recently (even if it was for health rather than climate reasons)
  • 3% of people had a hybrid and 2% had switched to a battery powered electric vehicle
  • Less than 2% of people had switched their heating system to low carbon in recent years.

 

Net Zero Conclusions

Achieving net zero targets and reaching carbon neutrality or negative emissions relies on a whole systems approach to the energy system, alongside low carbon solutions that work for consumers.

From virtual power plants to smart energy products and services, innovations in the energy sector are helping reduce emissions and allowing consumers to make sustainable choices.

Consumers should be at the heart of this transformation. Discover our Consumer Insight assets and expertise that combine cutting-edge data science, user-experience design thinking and in-depth consumer research to help innovators see beyond what people say and understand what they do.