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To achieve the 60% reduction in consumer emissions the CCC has stated is needed to meet Net Zero targets, research studies suggest a systems-wide approach is required. This would involve the public and private sector providing the environment and infrastructure that enable individuals to make low carbon choices more easily, while ensuring they have the relevant information to make their decisions.

In the UK Government’s Powering Up Britain: Net Zero Growth Plan, low carbon choices are referred to as ‘green choices’, and described as the public and businesses choosing green products, services, and goods. The plan sets out six principles regarding policies to facilitate green choices. Both the CCC and the House of Lords have recommended that government strategies should incorporate greater societal  and behavioural – change policies and guidance.

Commentators debate the extent to which individuals should be responsible for making green choices as opposed to the regulatory or physical environment not letting them, highlight the need for different actions based on the context and the different ways individuals act as consumers, citizens, and within organisations and groups. Health, time, comfort and status can strongly influence individuals’ decisions while finance and regulation are typically stronger motivations for organisations.

Commentators agree that enabling green choices in three high emission sectors would provide progress towards net zero targets, including transport, buildings and consumption of goods and services.

Key points

  • Reaching net zero targets will require the enabling and encouraging of low-carbon actions by individuals, businesses, and the public sector, also called ‘green choices’. 
  • Addressing the sectors with the highest emissions (transport, built environment, and consumption of products, services and goods) first would  likely provide the greatest greenhouse gas reductions. Engagement in green choices may spill over from these into other sectors. 
  • Governments, businesses, and organisations can minimise the effort or cost to individuals of taking green choices by adapting physical and regulatory environments. 
  • Stakeholders and researchers have identified several approaches that may encourage green choices by the public, including: 

         – clear and consistent policy direction from governments 

         – the use of trusted voices to communicate messages 

         – using different forms of public engagement with different groups of citizens 

         – having long-term and tailored strategies  

         – making green choices more accessible, affordable, attractive, and easy

Correction: in the section on electrical vehicle adoption ‘the sale ban until 2035’ was changed to ‘the phase out until 2035’. The attached footnote was amended from ‘increasing to 100% in 2035’ to ‘with a stated policy objective of increasing this to 100% in 2035’.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

Members of the POST Board*

David Hall, Behaviour Change

Toby Park, Behavioural Insights Team

Dr Sandra Bogelein, Climate Change Committee People and Net Zero Team*

Professor Nick Chater, Warwick Business School

Dr Jo Davan Wetton, University College London Centre for Behaviour Change*

DESNZ Green Choices Team*

Abigail Ward, Energy Saving Trust*

Rebecca Pickavance, Energy Saving Trust

Naomi Baker, Energy UK

Daisy Cross, Energy UK

Louise Shooter, Energy UK

Dr Samuel Hampton, University of Bath*

Dr Tom Hargreaves, University of East Anglia

Professor Oliver Hauser, University of Exeter

Dr Helen Holmes, University of Manchester

Dr Clare Hoolohan, University of Manchester

Professor Susan Michie, University College London

Professor Paul Monks, Chief Scientific Adviser to Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

Professor Sonja Dragojlovic-Oliveira, Strathclyde University

Dr Sarah Royston, Anglia Ruskin University

Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MBE, University of Bath*

Dr Jill Zhao, University of West of England

* Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of this briefing 

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