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PSE365: Climate change isn’t an ambition, but rather an opportunity

“Ambition is the wrong way of looking at [net-zero 2050 targets]. It is an opportunity.”

That was the view of Rupert George, Campaigns and Communication Director at UK100, explaining the real local community potential which could come along with this necessary green revolution across the public sector.

Suddenly, and particularly for those local areas which were perhaps left behind economically or had endured a very tough period during the pandemic, there is an opportunity to spark local economic opportunities, creating significant investment and jobs. It can help these communities discover and achieve a better way of life.

And that was a sentiment shared by fellow panellist Kate Dougherty, Head of Net Zero and Sustainability for Building Services as WSP, who equally shared her view that the adjective ‘ambitious’ being used to describe the 2050 targets overlooked some of the importance of the work being done.

“I don’t like using the word ambitious, because [meeting these targets] is what we have to do to avoid the worst climate outcomes. It is challenging, but we’ve got to do it.

“We need action and investment.

“It is absolutely essential that we hit that 2050 target.”

But one of the biggest elements in reframing the importance of this work and investment likely also involves changing the narrative used by those in leadership, at both a local and central level, and in how we frame the situation to the public.

As Rupert explained, it was extremely important that the Government and others better explained the net-zero requirements to the public; positioning it not as an ambitious future target we’re trying to hit, but an essential step we must make to safeguard the future for our next generations – and our own families, particularly. Understanding it in these types of context makes the behavioural shift necessary in the public an easier sell.

Kate reiterated this messaging change too: “We hear a lot about this £50bn bill [relating to climate change]; we’re framing it as a cost.

“We should be framing it as a benefit [instead].”

Kate and Rupert were joined on the panel by David Wharton, Deputy Director Cross Buildings Pillar at Crown Commercial Service, discussing all aspects of energy efficiency in public buildings; including retrofitting, heat pumps and the capital costs involved, among others.

You can watch the full panel discussion, alongside all other content from the PSE365 virtual event on-demand by joining our growing public sector community here.

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