This major new study interrogates public attitudes towards net zero, finding that while concern for climate change was once a concern of the few it is now ubiquitous across generations, income groups and the electorate. But how deep does this concern go?
The study finds that two thirds of voters (67%) think the Government is not being bold enough in tackling climate change, while 78% believe that if we put off action on climate change now, it will be more costly in the future. Voters from every age group, ethnicity, region and social grade, as well as both Leave and Remain and Conservative and Labour voters support bolder action in principle.
But support in principle softens in practice, particularly when people were questioned about making changes to their homes. Only 46% of those surveyed said they were “happy to pay higher prices for fuel and household items if it leads to less carbon being emitted into the atmosphere”, with nearly two thirds (64%) of 2019 Conservative voters opposed.
This was clear when we tested certain policies, both with and without the costs attached. For example, net support for making every household install insulation and double glazing falls from +36% blind to -12% when the estimated cost of £8,000 per household is revealed.
To truly understand the depth of support for different policies, the study constructed a Net Zero Index, measuring support for different policies once the likely cost, perceived impact and relative urgency of each policy had been taken into account. This index shows, most importantly, net support for each policy tested – but also reveals some sharper defining lines amongst the electorate.
We use our Net Zero Index to analyse the political geography of net zero, creating robust estimates for net zero support in every constituency in the country, and for different groups of voters. This reveals that:
Will Tanner, Director of Onward, said:
“Net zero is not just an environmental challenge, it is also a political one. At the moment, voters not only support ministers in their efforts to decarbonise the UK by 2050, but want the Government to be more ambitious and urgent in their approach.
“But the new climate consensus is more fragile than it appears. Voters’ enthusiasm starts to ebb when confronted with details of the costs and disruption, and there is deep scepticism of the commitment of other countries.
“This makes negotiations in COP26 in Glasgow all the more important – not just to secure international commitments, but also to generate the investment and innovation needed to cut costs and prevent green policies pushing families into the red.”
Will Tanner also appeared on GB News, to discuss the findings from the report:
This report is produced as part of our Getting to Zero research programme.
Established a year before COP26, Onward’s Getting to Zero programme is dedicated to developing practical and politically possible ways for the UK to meet its net zero ambitions and lead the world in decarbonisation.
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