It is unfortunate that climate change is one of the most jargon-ridden subjects of all public policy debates. The UK government commissioned a survey of the public this year that found only four in 10 claimed to know ‘a lot’ or ‘a fair amount’ about ‘net zero’.
However, focus group research would suggest that fewer than two in 10 could actually explain what the phrase means.
It doesn’t help that fashions in green buzz phrases change so fast. In the first decade of this century, the phrase ‘carbon neutral’ gained currency. It meant putting no more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than was taken out. It was a bit technical, but the basic idea was simple enough. But then, suddenly, a new phrase, ‘net zero’, meaning the same thing, became the badge of the in-crowd and competed with carbon neutrality for most trendy status.