Climate Change: Britons still want government to prioritise environment over economy

Over half of Britons feel government should prioritise the environment over the economy in wake of the pandemic, even if this means slower economic growth or job loss. Britons are more likely to feel renewable energy and obliging owners to insulate their homes are very acceptable initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions compared to the global average.

Despite a global pandemic and economic recession, UK public concern on climate change has risen significantly in 2020.

  • The majority of Britons say they are more worried about climate change (60%) than they were a year ago, of this – 18% say they are much more worried.  
  • Nearly half of Britons (49%) feel that the Coronavirus pandemic is linked in some way to the negative effects of human activity on nature and the environment.  
  • 4 in 10 Britons feel that the pandemic has made them increasingly aware of their impact on the environment.

Britons still feel the country should prioritise the environment over the economy coming out of the pandemic, although there is significant scepticism that this will happen.

  • Half of all Britons (52%) feel priority should be given to the environment, even if it might slow down economic growth and cause job loss. However, only 14% feel priority will be given to the environment.  
  • Conversely, only a third of Britons (32%) feel priority should be on economic growth and jobs, even if it might have harmful consequences for the environment –the vast majority (76%) feel priority will remain on economic growth despite environmental impact.
  • 75% of Britons feel government should first and foremost take responsibility to address climate change.  While 50% believe it should be consumers and 49% private companies.

Britons rank second highest globally in their belief that the level of actions other Britons have taken to fight climate change has increased in the last 12 months.  However, the public remains confused on the issue and requires more information on what they can personally do to limit the impact of climate change.

  • The majority of Britons (59%) feel that major changes in our lifestyles will be necessary to limit the impact of climate change.  37% feel that the level of action taken by UK citizens to combat climate change has increased in the last year. However, over half of Britons (56%) feel they are only ‘somewhat’ aware of what they need to do at a personal level to fight climate change.
  • The issue and terminologies used to discuss climate change initiatives still prove confusing to many Britons. Nearly half of Britons (47%) have heard of the term ‘carbon neutrality’ but do not understand what it means. While less than a third of Britons (29%) have heard of and feel they fully understand the term ‘carbon neutrality’.

This report was produced in partnership with EDF Energy.  It comprised a sample of 30 countries, totalling 24,004 individuals, representative of the population aged 16 and over in each country.  Est 500 or 1000 individuals questioned in each country. In the United Kingdom the sample was 1000. The survey was conducted online between September 9 and September 29, 2020.

When considering different measures that could be introduced to the UK to help reduce greenhouse emissions, Britons are more likely to feel renewable energy and obliging owners to insulate their homes are ‘very acceptable’ compared to global average.

Very Acceptable’ initiatives to reduce greenhouse emissions in the UK vs Global Average

  • Developing renewable energy - 72% in UK vs 58% global
  • Replacing coal- or fuel-oil-fired power plants with gas fired power plants – 18% in UK vs 27% global
  • Obliging owners to insulate their homes – 32% in UK vs 23% global
  • Making energy sources that produce CO2 more expensive, like gas, gasoline, etc. – 20% in UK vs 20% global
  • Replacing coal- or fuel-oil-fired power plants with nuclear power plant – 25% in UK vs 25% global
  • Limiting access to city centres to electric or hybrid cars only – 18% in UK vs 19% global
  • Increasing the tax on household waste to encourage people to waste less – 16% in UK vs 20% global
  • Making products manufactured abroad more expensive – 16% in UK vs 19% global
  • Setting up an urban tollbooth at the entrance to big cities – 11% in UK vs 16% global
  • Introducing a tax on plane tickets – 23% in UK vs 16% global
  • Introducing a tax when purchasing a polluting car – 28% in UK vs 26% global

The findings are publicly accessible here

EDF
About EDF

A key player in energy transition, the EDF Group is an integrated electricity company, active in all areas of the business: genera-tion, transmission, distribution, energy supply and trading, energy services. A global leader in low-carbon energies, the Group has developed a diversified generation mix based on nuclear power, hydropower, new renewable energies and thermal energy. The Group is involved in supplying energy and services to approximately 38.9 million customers*, 28.8 million of which are in France. It generated consolidated sales of €71 billion in 2019. EDF is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange.

* The customers were counted at the end of 2019 per delivery site; a customer can have two delivery points: one for electricity and another for gas.

Technical note

Selection of countries based on their CO2 emissions in tons per year, according to their geographic location, their exemplariness in fighting climate change and their socio-economic model: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, USA. Representative samples of the population between 500 and 1000 individuals per country; quota method. Fieldwork carried out online between 09/09 and 29/09/19.

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