UK public highly supportive of COP26 goals but few expect the government to take the steps needed

Despite low confidence in the government, the public see the UK as the G20 country doing most to tackle climate change

The author(s)

  • Sam Ridout Public Affairs
  • Bridget Williams Public Affairs
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New research by Ipsos shows there is more to be done by the UK in the fight against climate change, with the UK public not convinced of the country’s ability to deliver on climate and wanting to see more action.

In a survey of 9,999 UK adults aged 16+, three-quarters (76%) agree the UK should do more to combat climate change. However, ahead of COP26, there is low confidence that the government will deliver on climate, as over half (55%) are not confident that the government will take the actions needed to help combat climate change within the next few years (40% are confident). 

Despite this, the UK public sees the country as a ‘climate hero’ in the G20, as the UK came highest when people were asked to say which countries across the G20 were doing most to tackle the issue.   36% chose the UK, followed by Germany (25%) and Canada (16%).  On the other hand the main ‘climate villains’ across the G20 were seen as China (57%), the US (36%) and India (26%), as these are considered to be the countries doing least to help.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of UK adults say it is right that developed countries who have contributed most to the climate emergency by producing the most carbon emissions should pay more to solve the problem, and only 17% disagree. The UK government recently announced it would double climate finance aid over the next 5 years to £11.6 billion, and there is broad support for this policy. A third of the UK public this is about right (37%) and 21% think the amount should be increased.  Only 17% think it is too much and 10% that we shouldn’t be providing foreign aid to help tackle climate change at all.  

Looking to the next few years, almost 7 in 10 (68%) feel confident that they themselves will be able to take actions or make changes in their lifestyle to help combat climate change. Only 22% are not confident. There is also broad consensus that further action is needed, as only 5% cent say they already take enough action, and 2% believe no action is needed. 

Despite widespread confidence in themselves, UK adults are much less likely to have faith in others. Only 38% are confident that citizens/members of the public in the UK will take the actions needed to help combat climate change within the next few years. Similarly, only 37% are confident that businesses in the UK will take the actions needed. 

There is strong support for the COP26 goals, with those related to protecting and restoring forests and nature most strongly supported. More than 9 in 10 (92%) support reducing the amount of deforestation and protecting rainforests and other natural forests while 91% are in favour of protecting and restoring nature (e.g. forests, rivers, oceans, natural habitats). Only 1% oppose each of these goals. 

Most  of the approaches given in the survey receive support from a majority of Britons. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) support encouraging investment in renewable energy sources while 87% support making changes to protect communities from the impacts of climate changes and 80% support speeding up how quickly countries are moving away from coal-powered stations. Seventy-nine per cent support getting countries to sign up to ambitious targets to reduce their carbon emissions and three-quarters (74%) support encouraging rich countries to provide financial help to developing countries to combat climate change. 

While still receiving majority support, speeding up the switch to electric vehicles is the most polarising goal, with 61% supporting this goal, but 18% opposing it.

Bridget Williams, Research Director at Ipsos said:

While the public is currently unsure that the Government will take the steps required to tackle climate change in the UK, the Government can take heart from the very strong levels of public support for the goals of the upcoming COP26 summit, and for policies supporting developing countries in the fight against climate change.

Technical note:

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 9,999 adults aged 16+ in United Kingdom between 30th September and 6th October 2021. 
  • Survey data has been collected by Ipsos’s UK KnowledgePanel, an online random probability panel which provides gold standard insights into the UK population, by providing bigger sample sizes via the most rigorous research methods.
  • Data are weighted by age, gender, region, Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile, education, ethnicity and number of adults in the household in order to reflect the profile of the population of the UK. 
  • All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. 

The author(s)

  • Sam Ridout Public Affairs
  • Bridget Williams Public Affairs

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