Changing Behaviour for Net Zero 2050

Marteau, Theresa M., Nick Chater, Emma E. Garnett, “Changing Behaviour for Net Zero 2050,”  British Medical Journal 375 (2021). doi:

Theresa Marteau and colleagues argue for rapid, radical changes to the infrastructure and pricing systems that currently support unhealthy unsustainable behaviour

“Many major economies, including the US, EU, and UK, have committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to limit climate change. Immediate action is needed to hit this target and to minimise cumulative emissions. Current commitments are, however, unmatched by action….

The latest International Panel on Climate Change report estimates that if global emissions are halved by 2030 and net zero is reached by 2050, the current rise in temperatures could be halted and possibly reversed. The 26th UN climate change conference (COP26) in November 2021 offers a precious opportunity to get back on track.

Behaviour change by individuals, commercial entities, and policy makers is critical to achieving net zero in all domains. Here we focus on behaviour concerning diet and land travel, given their importance for both achieving net zero and improving population health, but the approaches we outline are also applicable to other behaviours.

Diet and land travel contribute an estimated 26% and 12% of greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. Cutting these emissions would also benefit health by reducing air pollution—now the greatest external threat to human health—increasing physical activity, and healthier diets, thereby tackling major risk factors for non-communicable disease globally.”

“Dietary change is likely to deliver far greater environmental benefits than can be achieved by food producers.”

This paper considers the behaviour of three groups central to achieving net zero by 2050: the public (both as citizens and consumers), policy makers, and private sector leaders.

Key messages:

  • Current government policies globally are insufficient for the rapid decarbonisation needed for net zero by 2050
  • Changing behaviour across populations is key to achieving this as technological innovation will be insufficient
  • Changing behaviour at scale requires changing the environments that drive the behaviour
  • Changes to diet and land travel can be achieved through policies to increase the availability and affordability of healthier and more sustainable options.
  • Policies for net zero need to be driven by evidence and citizens’ values, safeguarded from corporate interference

[… Read full article at the British Medical Journal ]