Green Book Pod 2: the net zero debate

As the world’s nations gather for COP28, we need no reminding that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity.  It is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

How should the UK – and politicians vying for office – respond?

Polling by More in Common consistently shows that British voters see “climate change and the environment” as one of the top three issues facing the country.  This is a remarkable increase from just a few years ago.

But the UK is doing nowhere near enough to meet its legally binding “net zero” target – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Over recent months, Rishi Sunak has backtracked on key net zero policies as he tries to draw new political dividing lines.

Labour have promised a multi-billion-pound green prosperity plan, but they keep pushing back its timetable and planned scope.

And what about the Liberal Democrats?  In the mid-1990s, we were the first UK political party to publish a comprehensive programme to address climate change.  Sixteen years ago, we were the first to set a net zero target for 2050.  Liberal Democrats in coalition presided over a quadrupling of renewable energy and established the world’s first Green Investment Bank.

But we seem to have lost our public profile on climate change and net zero.  In the 2000s, opinion polls often showed the Liberal Democrats scoring in double figures as the best party to handle the environment or climate change.  In July 2023, YouGov found that just 4 per cent of voters thought we were the best party to handle both issues.

So this second episode of Green Book Pod examines the place of the Liberal Democrats in the net zero debate.  Do the Liberal Democrats have the robust policies needed to achieve the UK’s net zero targets and, at the same time, build a lasting prosperity?

What new, eye catching net zero policies should the party consider?

And what messages and stories should the Liberal Democrats use to present our net zero policies to voters?

Joining us are three great guests:

  • Tom Burke, co-founder and chair of the E3G think tank, a visiting Honorary Professor of Imperial and University Colleges, London and a Senior Associate of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).
  • James Murray, the founding editor of BusinessGreen and one of the U.K.’s leading commentators on low carbon policy, economics and technology.
  • Chris Willmore, a former professor of sustainability and law; she is currently cabinet member for Planning, Regeneration and Infrastructure at South Gloucestershire Council.

The chair of the session is Josh Babardine, parliamentary spokesman for the Eastbourne and Willingdon Liberal Democrats.

Green Book Pod is hosted on LibDem Podcast, and this episode is now live on all the major platforms.  You can also find the podcast on YouTube here.

Our first podcast on the economy is still available at LibDem Podcast to listen or download, and we’ll be back next month for a discussion on Britain’s relations with the European Union.  For more on the original Green Book publication, see here.


* Neil Stockley works as a communications and policy strategist focused on energy, transport and the digital economy. He has chaired policy working groups on climate change and net zero for the Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Hirst 4th Dec '23 - 2:27pm

    The thing about climate change is that the more we do now means less pain in the future regardless of any goals we have signed up to. We should be leading the world in creating more renewable energy, protecting nature and dealing with our waste. Our home insulation policy is in tatters and only the Liberal Democrats have the vision to deal with these interlocking issues.

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