The cost of reaching net zero and the perilous consequences if we don’t

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Date Published

13/10/2021

Reading time

5 mins read

Author

Chris Cartwright

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated very clearly that “human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe”.

At best it made for uncomfortable reading, at times it was horrifying. The UK Government has already pledged that the country will become net-zero by 2050, but there has been much debate about the cost of doing so. We conducted our own research* with 3,004 UK adults to find out how the cost of reaching net-zero will impact consumer decisions.

The affordability of ‘net zero’

People understand that taking action to reach net zero will cost money. Our research found that consumers expect prices to increase (either greatly or slightly) across all products and services.

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Two thirds of respondents believe that day-to-day life will become more expensive if they make green lifestyle changes. 94% say they are willing to make at least a small lifestyle change in their personal lives. However, only a quarter (27%) are willing to make a ‘large’ lifestyle change, while 53% said they would make ‘some changes’ and 14% said they would make ‘little’ changes.

Regionally, those living in London are the most willing to make a ‘large’ lifestyle change at 41%, as well as those on a higher income of between £50,271 and £150,000 (38%) and parents of young children aged 0-9 (34%).

Parents are more interested in making the world a better place for their children or grandchildren than those without children, at two fifths (40%) compared to 15%. Parents with children who are younger than nine years old are willing to pay £43 a month to make green changes. This is substantially more than parents with children over 18 years old (£14) and those with no children (£19).

Unsurprisingly, the ability of low-income households to change their patterns of consumption is limited, whereas higher earners will pay considerably more. Those on an income of £150,000 a year are more than twice as likely to make a large change in their lifestyle to meet net zero targets than someone who earns between £12,571 and £50, 270.

29% of respondents said that they would not be willing to pay anything extra from their ordinary spend to reduce their carbon emissions. Older generations indicated they’re less likely to pay more per month to live a ‘greener life’.

A large change in their lifestyles

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Some change in their lifestyles

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Extra amount per month people are willing to spend

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Interestingly, more than half (58%) of respondents said that they would be more likely to spend more on living a greener lifestyle if they were incentivised by the government or a company. Younger generations were more likely to respond to incentives than Baby Boomers and 75+.

On average, our research found that people would be willing to pay £22 extra per month to live a ‘greener lifestyle,’ which would include things like using a greener energy supplier, an electric vehicle, or buying different appliances. However, there are certain factors that impact how much more people are willing to spend.

Londoners would pay significantly more on average than any other region, at £41 a month, while respondents in the South of England are generally willing to pay more per month than those in the North – £27 compared to £18.

On average, men are willing to pay more than women to reduce their carbon footprint – at £26 compared to £18 a month, while millennials would pay £34 a month on average, which is far higher than baby boomers who would pay £13 a month, and over 75’s at £9 a month.

Willing to spend more if they were incentivised by the government or company

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Willing to spend to reduce their carbon emissions

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Generating greener energy

Community energy generation, which is energy generated by a community for the use of that community, has huge potential in helping the UK to reach net-zero.

However, our research found that there is a long way to go. Currently 81% of people do not generate energy or power in their local community and 84% don’t have any way of generating energy in their homes.

44% said that it would be too expensive for them to do so.

10% of respondents said they do generate energy from solar panels at home, while 11% generate solar energy in their community. Again, household income has an impact. Half of respondents who earn over £150,001 a year have solar panels installed, while 21% who earn between £50, 271 and £150,001 do not. However, this number is especially low for people who live in Liverpool, where only 5% of residents have solar panels installed in their home.

Wind turbines and hydro turbines were the least popular options as a source of energy in their own households and in local communities.

There’s a big discrepancy across income when it comes to willingness to switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle – suggesting affordability is a big factor in the decision. Two fifths (41%) of those earning up to £12,571 have or will make this change, compared to 89% of those earning over £150,001

The road to net zero requires significant financial investment and a shift in consumer attitudes. As the findings suggest, although there are factors that affect consumer decisions, most are still willing to make lifestyle changes to reach the government’s goal of creating a carbon neutral economy.

At Capita, we’re committed to reorientating our business towards net zero as part of our drive to be a purpose-led, responsible business, and are well under way in defining our pathway towards becoming net zero. Our approach to climate change focuses on decarbonising our operations and tackling climate change with our clients and partners.

In 2021, we’ve been developing our ambition and financial plan to achieve net zero as soon as possible, aligning our pathway to the forthcoming Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) global standard for corporate net-zero targets. Alongside this, we are strengthening our assessment of climate risk against our corporate strategy and financial position – building plans and an understanding of the costs to manage and mitigate the risks.

Research was undertaken between 8th - 15th June 2021 by Opinium Research. Sample: 3,004 UK adults.

Find out more, download the 'The road to net zero' report

Written by

Chris Cartwright

Chris Cartwright

Critical Infrastructure Market leader

Chris is a Senior Executive with over 20 years’ experience in Energy/ Utilities/ Infrastructure and Consulting. Chris is currently a Market Sector Leader and Head of Critical Infrastructure at Capita Consulting. Chris is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow with the Institution of Engineering and Technology and is currently the chair of the Digital Sector Executive panel.

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