Action to address the accelerating climate and nature emergencies can be about more than staving off the worst; it can be about imagining a better world which we can build together.
A future where people and nature can thrive, with resilient local communities, good jobs, successful low-carbon businesses, and where inequalities are reduced and opportunities offered to all.
A future where progress is measured by the quality of life, security and wellbeing of all citizens as well as the health of our natural world.
To realise this vision, a new approach is required, one which understands the inextricable link between addressing the climate and nature crises with the necessary speed and ambition, and simultaneously tackling economic and social injustice.
The transformation must be rooted in fairness. Not only because the poorest communities are least responsible for these crises and invariably the worst affected, but because unless action to restore nature and decarbonise the economy is rooted in social and economic justice, it simply won’t succeed.
The recommendations of the Environmental Justice Commission have been shaped by a series of citizens’ juries, involving hundreds of hours of discussion with people from all walks of life from across the UK. They were brought together to share their views on the challenges and opportunities their communities and the country face and their ideas for change.
The government is not on track to meet its climate targets
Predictions of current emissions reduction compared to what is called the ‘6th Carbon Budget’ which sets the required emissions reductions for the UK to hit net zero.
The overwhelming message from these juries was one of optimism: a belief that if all parts of society work together then not only can the climate and nature crises be overcome, but action to address them can improve people’s everyday lives.
Their conclusion was that governments, businesses and communities should reduce emissions in ways that protect and repair nature, lock in fairness and offer what the commission calls a ‘people’s dividend’ – benefits like warmer homes, a cleaner, affordable and accessible transport system and high-quality jobs that will sustain people and our natural world.
0% of people want to see increased government spending on environmental issues
The citizens we engaged with were clear that we need national leadership to set the ambition and drive change. This demands a step change in public investment in the clean transition. Investment should be raised by at least £30 billion a year to create more low carbon businesses and good new green jobs – up to 1.7 million by 2035.
This will support consumers through the transition, particularly those on low incomes, and ensure that the right support is provided to the workers and communities affected.
Action to reduce emissions and protect the natural world is about to affect our day-to-day lives more than ever. For this to be done in a fair way, we must all have a greater stake in what comes next.
What does the report say? The commission makes over 100 recommendations, drawn from the jurors’ insights and hopes and anxieties for the future. Here we share some highlights of what these jurors told us and the key themes of the commission’s recommendations.
Fairness, opportunity and people first
Our jurors talk about their vision for the future.
Our local communities
Being able to be part of decisions that affect you and where you live matters. Through our citizens’ juries we heard that people want decisions to be taken with the community, rather than feeling like things are being done to them.
When communities are involved, the decisions are fairer, the outcomes are better and public support longer lasting. Communities know what it’s like to walk the streets of an area; they can see what change is needed, and how it can be done.
Many people get involved in projects that are good for nature because they also make the local area nicer, boost the economy or tackle local social issues. Through these projects they learn new skills and create social connections that can also help strengthen community bonds and improve resilience in the face of shocks, like adverse weather and flooding – some of the immediate impacts of the climate crisis.
What does the commission call for? Local communities bring practical knowledge from all corners of society. Government needs to match this with high quality, accessible public information on the climate and nature crises, made available to all.
The commission argues that no plan for addressing the climate and nature crises should be prepared without public involvement; new national and local citizens’ assemblies should be established and communities should have a greater say in how local budgets are spent.
A key demand from our jurors was that all policy should be tailored to the different needs of local communities.
The commission calls for all local authorities to be offered the powers and resources to play their part in achieving net zero and supporting nature to recover, and for more support for community action. Local communities should be supported to take charge of land and buildings for green projects, provided with planning support for community-run developments, and given more information on community rights, funding opportunities, resources and support networks.
Many local authorities have more ambitious net zero targets than the UK 2050 target
Net zero targets as set by local authorities.
Only 0 in 4 people say they can influence decisions affecting their local area
The jurors on
Their local communities
Our jurors all heard stories of
community groups that are taking action…
Only 0% of the UK’s total emissions come from heating our buildings
Nearly a fifth of the UK’s total emissions come from heating our buildings. To reduce emissions, many homes will need new insulation, and we will also need to stop using gas boilers. Mostly, they will be replaced by heat pumps; in a few places other technologies, such as heat networksand hydrogen boilers, will be better.
The good news is this can be win-win: reducing emissions and better for the public. Insulating our homes will result in lower fuel bills, and the installation of new heating systems and insulation would create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.
At the moment, though, most people haven’t been told what this will mean for them and their homes. We heard people’s concerns about how to afford changing their boiler or the work that might need to be done to their house. They’re anxious about the admin and the hassle. People who work in this sector, such as plumbers, are concerned about training. We’ll need many more skilled workers than we have now who can make these changes to our homes.
Only 1.3% of new homes built in 2019 met the highest possible energy efficiency standards
At the same time, as our jurors told us, new houses are still being built that don’t meet the standards needed, and some are going up in places at high risk of flooding. The future homeowners then have to deal with the problems this creates, rather than these being tackled by the companies making money from building unsustainable homes.
What does the commission call for? We need urgent action to inform people about the changes that are coming for home heating and the benefits they will bring, such as making homes warmer and drier, and lowering bills. People need more than information and they need help to afford to make changes to their homes. They shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of inaction from business or government.
This is why the commission argues for a new GreenGO grant and loan scheme, provided by central government, made available through every high street bank across the country, offering financial support to households to change the heating systems in their homes, and make them warmer. Local government also needs new powers and funding to be able to work with local communities to develop plans that suit their areas best.
The commission argues that the government should also get a move on in recruiting the nearly 300,000 workers needed in retrofitting, heat pump and heat network installation. This will require concerted support from government to train workers in existing industries and new job entrants too.
Low-income households currently pay more for green policies and will need support to make changes
Low-carbon policy costs as a percentage of total household income by income groups (2016).
The jurors on
In Thurrock, the government’s target of 32,000 new homes
over the next 20 years is putting increasing pressure on…
Energy efficiency measures could result
in annual savings of £30 for the average
household in 2030
How we travel
The transport sector is currently the number one contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need urgent action to turn this around. In doing so, we can put in place a new approach to how we all travel, one that makes people’s lives easier, healthier and happier and is better for nature.
Electric vehicles, instead of ones powered by petrol and diesel, produce fewer emissions and can be powered by renewable energy. But they still require natural resources to make and still create some emissions that pollute the air. Reducing emissions, but with the same or even more cars on our roads, isn’t a future that the communities we spoke with want to see.
Without action there could be nearly 10 million more private cars in the UK by 2050
Forecast growth in levels of car ownership in the UK from 2021 to 2050 (millions).
Through our citizens’ juries we heard that people want it to be possible to live a good life, wherever you are, without needing to own a car.
The average car in the UK is parked for 0% of the time
What does the commission call for? To make this a reality, people need to be able to reach what they need and access good jobs locally. The government needs to invest in better public transport and make local transport like buses and trams free for everyone. The commission calls for all local public transport to be free at the point of use by 2030. It also needs to be easier to hire, rather than own, lots of difference types of vehicles, including electric bikes and cars.
We recommend that digital connectivity is treated as a right and that the government must commit to making it easier for people to access what they need close to where they live – the idea of a ’20-minute neighbourhood’ where most services people need are within close reach by a walk, cycle or bus ride.
The commission also argues that when governments make investment decisions about transport, they need to give more thought to nature and prioritise wellbeing and tackling inequality.
People in the lowest income households are half as likely to use cars,
and are more likely to walk, than those with a higher income
Number of trips per person per year as driver of passenger in a car or van, and number of walking trips per person, split by income levels.
The jurors on
A lack of jobs in the South Wales Valleys means that many people travel for…
There is expected to be up to 10 million more cars on the road by 2050 – taking the total to over 0 million
Jobs and the work we do
Tackling the climate and nature crises will mean that some people’s jobs will need to change. People who work in heavily polluting industries, like oil, steel and cement, will be particularly affected, but there need to be major changes to reduce emissions and protect nature across all types of work.
The people we spoke with through our citizens’ juries were worried about jobs being lost in already struggling places in the UK. They were also concerned about whether we have the skills we need across the workforce. Sectors like retail and manufacturing already face skills shortages before we even look at all the new skills which will be needed to decarbonise these sectors.
Our jurors were concerned about whether enough support is in place to help people who need to retrain, and whether young people entering the job market for the first time are receiving the right kind of advice and support. They also said that workers need to have more voice in the workplace.
0% of workers across different high-carbon industries would consider moving into a low-carbon sector job "with the right support"
What does the commission call for? The commission argues for a funded right to retrain. All high emissions businesses should set out plans that say which workers in their companies may be affected by the transition, and these workers should have a legal right to retraining, ideally within the same company supported by funding from government.
Tackling the climate and nature crises will create new jobs and opportunities. Our analysis points to around 1.7 million new jobs by 2035. However, inequalities could be worsened if these opportunities aren’t spread fairly across the whole of the country. Governments and businesses should target investment to tackle regional inequalities.
Across all types of jobs, workers must be given a greater voice and stake in their futures. People deserve good quality jobs, with decent pay, reasonable working hours, a safe-working environment, flexibility, diversity, training opportunities and job security. And these jobs can and should be good for the planet as well as the people doing them.
1.7 million direct and indirect jobs could be created in clean industries by 2035
Jobs creation by sector.
The jurors on
Known as the ‘oil capital of Europe’, Aberdeen has become…
1.7 million jobs could be created in the green economy between now and 2035
Our natural world
0% of species have declined in the UK since 1970
The UK’s wildlife is on the brink. Our land and seas should be habitats where wildlife can flourish. Yet, we are one of the most nature depleted countries on earth.
When we look after nature the returns are enormous. Peat bogs and forests capture carbon and help protect us from global heating. Planting trees can reduce flooding and landslides; coral reefs can reduce coastal flooding.
Around 72 per cent of land in the UK is used for agriculture. Farmers are responsible for growing our food, but they also need to be supported to look after the land. This means a huge change in how farming is done by most farmers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought home how green spaces are vital for our physical and mental health. Yet the poorest and most marginalised have the least access to parks and gardens, and children are growing up in a world where nature is harder to find. Our jurors were clear on both the value of nature in its own right, and in its role in supporting our health and wellbeing. They believe that nature needs to be a bigger part of all our lives, more prominent in government decision making, and that there should be more green and wild spaces in our towns and cities, as well as the countryside.
What does the commission call for? All governments of the UK should work together to create spaces where nature can thrive, in good ecological condition, rich in biodiversity. Currently our nature-rich sites are fragmented; these places need to be joined up by natural corridors which support wildlife to move around.
The commission also recommends the creation of a National Nature Service to create new high-quality job opportunities working to restore nature. This would provide at least a year of paid work and training for rangers, with a focus on jobs for young people and the communities that need them most.
Our farmers also need support in the transition. They should be provided with incentives to help restore nature, and not given funding to continue business-as-usual. We want to see public money supporting ever-improving standards which can be good for nature, farmers and consumers too. Farmers should also be supported with advice services, training and to build networks.
Adults in the lowest income groups spend the least time in nature
Proportion of adults who visited the natural environment at least once a week in 2019, split by socio-economic groups AB or DE.
Most affluent (AB)
Least affluent (DE)
The jurors on
Tees Valley and County Durham are home to beautiful…
If everyone consumed the same amount per person as the UK, we would need 2.5 Earths to sustain ourselves
The UK has been a leading contributor to global heating and the destruction of nature. The UK is the fifth largest emitter in the world in terms of total emissions over time. The UK therefore has a greater responsibility to act with partners around the world to address the climate and nature crises both at home and abroad.
The impacts of climate change and nature depletion are already with us, and the poorest nations, who have contributed the least to these crises, are often at the sharpest end of the impacts. Yet, as Covid-19 has demonstrated, in the face of such global threats no country is safe until all countries are safe.
Our jurors wanted to see action to help the whole world address these environmental crises. They saw the UK’s greater role in contributing to the problem, the responsibility to help poorer countries, and the potential for economic benefits for the UK in doing so. Many of the jurors also wanted to ensure that the UK wasn’t acting alone or implementing policies that were much stricter than elsewhere. They wanted to make sure that businesses didn’t leave and take jobs with them.
What does the commission call for? The UK is set to host a major international climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow in November 2021. This is a huge opportunity for the UK to play a leading role in securing a global fair transition.
The commission argues that if the UK is to make this crucial summit a success, then it must commit to cutting its negative impacts on climate and nature by a greater, fairer share. This means committing to reduce not just emissions produced from goods made at home, but also those that result from goods we import too, as well as eliminating the impact we have through things like deforestation.
It will also mean providing more support to developing nations to help them through the transition and to support them to become more resilient to the impacts of the climate and nature crises that can be so devastating to people, communities, and their economies.
As host of COP26, the UK can seize the moment not just to avert climate disaster but to build a fairer economy for all, across the world.
The UK is the fifth biggest contributor in terms of cumulative emissions
Cumulative historical global carbon dioxide emissions, by country.