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Next: Panel three - Q&A
Tim Hughes: Next up we have Professor Rebecca Willis, so over to you, Rebecca.
Professor Rebecca Willis: Thanks. So you just heard from Chris about the changes that the UK could make to get to zero carbon and the question that I want to address is how we might do that. Who would need to do what if we're going to reach net zero. So I'm going to be talking about the different, the different groups and actors involved. So I'm gonna cover in the next 10 minutes, the different groups that need to act. And I'm gonna look at central government and local government, I'm gonna look at businesses and communities, and I'm going to look at individuals. And then, I'm going to really focus in on what government can do because it's your job as an assembly to make recommendations to parliament. Now, government is sort of a part of parliament, all the MPs who are in the government are also part of parliament. So you will be having to think mostly about what, what politicians can do, what government and parliament can do to get us on the path of net-zero. So I'm going to focus in particularly on the role of government. But as I'll say, that's very much linked to what businesses and individuals can do. So I think a useful way of thinking about this is, uh is to say that getting to net-zero will need action from all three of these groups. We'll need action from government, central government and local government. It will need businesses and communities to do things differently.#
And it will need us as individuals to do things differently. And so let me give you an example. So travelling around cities, one of the things that - and all these things came up yesterday - but what I'm hoping to do today with this is really to consolidate what you were talking about yesterday and give you some work through practical examples. So if you're talking about city travel in a city like here in Birmingham, where we are today, one of the things that came up quite a lot yesterday was what individuals could do in terms of, you know, maybe cycling more or walking more if they're able to do so, using public transport or switching to an electric vehicle. Those are some of the things that individuals can do. Um, there's things that businesses and communities can do to to help people along their way. So businesses can provide bike hire for example, businesses put on bus services. Businesses might be able to provide electric taxis. And there are also things that government can do. So, for example, they could charge cards to enter the city as London's done through its congestion charge. They could provide good bus services and maybe use public money to subsidise those bus services. And they can build cycle lanes. So these sorts of things have been happening in cities and I don't know how many of you know Birmingham well, but I was I spent a couple of years in Birmingham as a child, and it looked very different to how it did today. And one of the reasons is that the city centre has been pedestrianised and it's been easy, it's now easier to get around without a car. And that's something that's a change that's happened in Birmingham and actually Birmingham are going a bit further and uh, changing their road system again to prioritise people on bikes. And so that's a concrete example literally out of our window of how these changes can be brought about.#
But the point that I really want to stress is that it's not about just one of these groups doing something. It's actually about how you can coordinate to make sure that everyone can play their part. So, for example, you might decide that you're going to get a train to work because you don't want to drive anymore. Maybe you don't want to drive your petrol or diesel cars, so you think, right I'll get a train. But then you might find out that the train's more expensive or there's not a train that could get you there in time. And certainly, if you live in rural areas, you'll find that it's, you know, it might be very difficult to get a train. So you can't do much about that yourself and the way that that might change is if the train, if the train companies or the government, changed the way that the road, that the transport system is managed. So you might have the best intentions as an individual and you find that you can't act because government or businesses haven't done something. So what this triangle represents is a sort of change model, which shows that if all of those players, government, businesses, and communities and individuals have the right incentives, and if they're all motivated to make a change, then you can get that in place. So you can create city travel that is lower carbon and that that makes it easier for people to get around. That also allows for people who might not be able to walk or use a bike, that provides a kind of transport system that allows people to get around the way that they want and which is also much lower carbon. But it will - it's most likely to work if all three sides of that triangle are playing their part, and if you just leave it to one or the other, then it's much harder, it's much harder to act.#
So let me go through then, as I said in particular, what government can do. So there are lots of ways that government can help businesses and communities and individuals to get to net zero. And again a lot of these came up in the conversations yesterday, so this is a bit of revision in a way. Government can provide information and advice; it can provide, it can spend money and invest; it can change the price system through taxes and through subsidies; and it can it can regulate, it can pass laws to make something illegal. So I'm just gonna tell you some advantages and disadvantages of both. And through doing this, I don't want suggest that one route is necessarily better than another, but it's almost like I'm giving you a menu of different ways in which government can, can change things. And it's almost a menu that you can be having in your mind as you develop your recommendations. So, information and advice, an example of that would be advice that some of you might have seen about how to save energy in the home. And the advantages of government providing information and advice, is that it's relatively cheap. You know they might, you might have to pay for adverts or something, but it's not, you know, it's not an expensive thing to do, and also it doesn't force anyone to act. You know, you know, you're just providing advice and asking people to make decisions. Then it's, there's no force involved. The disadvantage linked to that is that it can be ignored. And also, remember that triangle. It doesn't necessarily make it easier to act unless there are other changes as well. So, the government might say, might give you information about energy efficiency. But if you find it too expensive or there aren't businesses that can provide you with those energy efficiency services, you're going to find it really hard to act. So that's the disadvantage of information provision. So the government can spend money. Government obviously raises money through taxes. It can also get money through borrowing and it can spend that on things which will help us toward less carbon. So, for example, cycle paths, or it can pay for you to insulate your home. It's done both of those things in some areas. So the advantage of this is that government tackles the problem directly. The government just goes out and does it for you if you like. And another advantage is that it benefits everyone, so you know you don't have to pay to use a cycle path. Government's provided it for you and you can use it.#
The disadvantage of course is that it costs money, and that money either comes from borrowing or it comes from our pockets in the form of tax, and because it involves spending money, it might not be popular. It depends. Some, you know, some taxes are popular, some taxes less so. So there's that sort of question about whether whether people will, will support it. Um, and then another way that government can act is through changing prices, using the tax system to change prices. So an example here is fuel tax; so there is a - you pay tax obviously, when you buy petrol and diesel. There's no road tax at the moment for electric vehicles, so you don't, so the tax on electric vehicles is zero, when you pay road tax on other vehicles, so that's an example of changing the price system. The advantage of this is that it makes the zero carbon or low carbon alternative cheaper, and also that if you raise money by taxing fossil fuels, you can take that money and spend it on low carbon solutions. So that you can change the way that the market work. The disadvantages are that you'll need to think about whether it's fair to tax people, and, what if there are no alternatives? So if you're taxing car use, but you live in a rural area where there's no alternative, is it fair to impose that cost across the population? Is it fair if people can't afford that tax? And obviously we'll have different levels of income and some people might not be able to afford it. So what if there are no alternatives? You have to pay extra, but you can't make it make a choice not to. And, as with government spending, it may be popular, it may be unpopular, and that's what politicians will try and think through. And lastly, regulations. This is where government just changes the law and says, right, you can't do this anymore. It becomes illegal.#
So an example is that a few years ago, government changed the rules on on on gas boilers in your home, so that when you installed a new boiler it had to be the most efficient type of gas boiler, and that just happened. And then boiler installers just installed the most efficient ones and, you know, it wasn't attacked or information or anything, it was just 'right this change is happening'. That's happening now, with in five years time, we won't be able to generate electricity from coal anymore. And, you know that's just the law. The advantage of regulations is that it's quite simple. It's just saying you can't do it anymore, and it's very predictable, and it applies the same to everyone. So unlike taxes. So if something's tax, then the richer you are, the more of it you'll be able to do. Where as with regulation that applies, regardless of your income, you're just not allowed to do that thing anymore, or businesses aren't allowed to do that thing anymore. And it can be introduced gradually. So as with coal, we can say right in five years time, there won't be any more coal generation, and that gives time for people to adapt and it gives time for companies to develop new solutions. So you can signal that you're going to change the law, and that means that people can then, people and companies can then get used to that new situation. The disadvantage of regulation is that it might affect businesses, and this is particularly an issue if that business trades internationally. So, for example, if a company's making steel here and a carbon tax or energy tax is imposed on steelmaking, you can not buy your steel from here anymore. You could import it from somewhere overseas where it's cheaper to make steel. So there is a sometimes a problem with regulation for that sort of business. Again, it might be popular, it might be unpopular, and that's a judgement a politician is always making. And you have to design regulations very carefully because you can't ban something that there isn't an alternative for. Or if you ban something very quickly, then it might be difficult for people and companies to adjust. So it has to be done quite carefully and over a long period of time. So, the conclusion is that you need action from all these three groups, and realistically, it's not saying that government will do only one of these things. It's saying that in for any, to tackle any issue, it's gonna need a combination of all those things. Thanks.
Tim Hughes: Thank you very much to Rebecca, for that. So -
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