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If GOV.UK did the climate emergency

On 1 May 2019 the UK Government acknowledged that there is an environment and climate emergency. This was a direct response to the demands of the activist group Extinction Rebellion which organised mass disruption and protests across London in April 2019.

The purpose of Extinction Rebeliion’s activities was to call the attention of the government to the urgency highlighted in the special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Written by scientists who were appointed by governments, it stated that we have until 2030 to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C. Above this rate of increase the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat, poverty and migration for hundreds of millions of people will significantly increase. On this basis they have demanded that the government commits to do three things:

What does this mean for designers in government?

Working as a service designer in the civil service (aka the government), it got me thinking about what the UK government might look like for citizens if it really does take on the climate emergency. 

To this end, I’ve started to put the basic coding skills I learnt on the GOV.UK Prototyping Kit course to slightly alternative uses. I’ve started to imagine what the award winning GOV.UK website might look like if it did the climate emergency (as well as user-centred design). I suppose you could call it speculative content design.

So you want to learn to drive a car? Really?

I’ve started with the classic step by step service of ‘Learn to drive a car’. This is the go-to example - a shining example - of how a user-centred design approach can make interacting with government a quick and easy process. But is this really the kind of activity government services should be facilitating? Even electric cars still cause significant air pollution, upstream carbon emissions, plus all the other side effects of congestion, road traffic accidents, inactive lifestyles and social inequality. (Dan Hill has a great post on medium to this point, paragraph 26.)

In 2030, I’ve imagined that this service might have been superseded by the new step by step service of ‘Learn to ride a bicycle’. This was a bit of fun, but it has got me thinking... 

Have you got an idea for a government service in a carbon-neutral UK in the year 2030? Please let me know!

July 2019