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The first of a planned series of reports from Citizens Advice has warned the Government that it is essential to make sure that Citizens are at the heart of the process of the changes needed to make the country carbon-neutral by 2050.

Citizens Advice is the official consumer watchdog for energy and has a statutory role in representing the interests of energy customers.

In a survey of more than 2,000 people in December 2019, the aim of net-zero had overwhelming support (greater than 80%), but very many people are worried about the impact and don’t understand what will be involved.  For example, only just over a third (38%) know that they will need to change the way their home is heated, whereas the Committee on Climate Change believes 90% of homes need to install low-carbon heating systems for the UK to meet its net-zero goal by 2050.  Furthermore, fewer than half of UK adults (44%) realised they will have to switch to an electric car.

The survey found that of those who know they will have to replace their heating system (a minority of the country) say they are willing to do so but also say they’ll need help and support to make the changes:

  • Of those who know they will need to change their heating system, 79% said they’re prepared to do so
  • But of those, 76% say they will need advice or financial support such as grants, before they go ahead

About 29 million homes in the UK will need their heating system replaced with low-carbon alternatives, such as air source and ground source heat pumps.

Citizens Advice says the public will need to understand why these changes are needed and will need help and support to make the right decisions.  Without this support net-zero will not be achieved.  There is clearly a large programme of explanation to reach the two thirds of the country that don’t yet know that change is necessary.  To raise people’s awareness and then cause the changes to happen has to start with clear objectives and how they will be achieved.

Let us hope that the upcoming budget will give greater clarity about future Government policy for decarbonising heat.  In particular, a heat policy roadmap laying out Government plans would help consumers and people involved in the industry to engage with some consistency of purpose in the enormous, long-term project of decarbonising the UK’s heating sector.

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