Majority of Brits back stronger government action to combat climate change

Public in favour of greater clean energy investment and limits on flying

Extinction Rebellion protesters at Carbis Bay during the G7 summit
(Image credit: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

Britons would support more government intervention on climate change and believe the environment is the third biggest issue facing the UK, new polling data has revealed.

In a public opinion poll, YouGov asked 1,781 people in England, Scotland and Wales to rank the top three most important issues facing the country, with 34% of the vote going to environmental issues. The subject ranked third after the economy (44%) and health (50%).

The data also shows that green issues have risen higher on the public’s agenda in the past two years, while others including crime and welfare benefits have dipped. The news comes as world leaders face severe warnings on climate change delivered by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this week.

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New data from Ipsos MORI has also found a significant uptake in support for green action.

“As well as desires to see more done on home soil, there is appetite and opportunity for the UK to be global leaders in the climate change fight”, said the market researcher’s head of sustainability, Jessica Long.

Of 2,000 adults aged 16 to 75, 56% said they want to see the UK reduce its emissions at a faster rate in order to set an example to other countries.

Meanwhile, one in two people said they would back an end to investment in overseas coal, oil and gas projects, and a similar proportion of people said they would be in favour of the government restricting trade with countries that do not commit to international climate targets, a move which could put tension on international trade deals if it were to come into effect.

The data also reveals that 60% of those surveyed would support a ban on importing goods linked to deforestation. Westminster has already made progress in this area; under proposals laid out in the Environment Bill, currently being read in the House of Lords, government regulations would make due diligence on “forest risk” commodities a new responsibility for commercial businesses.

Opinion was more polarised on the provision of financial aid to developing countries in order to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change, with 44% in favour and 24% opposed to the proposition. More favourable was the proposition of greater investment in renewable energies, such as hydro and solar power, which was backed by 71%.

In June, market researcher Opinium also found that three in ten UK voters – and roughly half of Conservative voters – believe the government is doing more than other countries in tackling climate change. However, almost half of UK voters also believe that the government is “underreacting” to climate change.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 27% said they would be in support of policies that would tackle climate change, even if they had a negative impact on their personal finances. Of those, 35% were Labour voters, compared to 20% Conservative. A total of 43% of those polled opposed such policies.

Staycations could also be set to stay, with half of respondents saying they would support policies that limited the number of times they could fly per year.

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