Skip to main content
Net Zero

Carbon Brief analysis shows record opposition to climate action by right-leaning UK newspapers in 2023

16 January 2024

An analysis by the website Carbon Brief has found a record number of editorials in UK newspapers (almost exclusively right-leaning publications) that oppose climate action. Carbon Brief writes:

Newspapers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail published 42 editorials in 2023 arguing against climate action – nearly three times more than they have printed before in a single year. They called for delays to UK bans on the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars and boilers, as well as for more oil-and-gas production in the North Sea. In response to such demands, prime minister Rishi Sunak performed a “U-turn” in September on some of his government’s major net-zero policies.

Climate Barometer tracker data suggests a correspondence (cause and effect is harder to establish) between the views of Conservative MPs on net zero policies, and the views expressed in these editorials. But among the public there is not such a clear relationship, with even Conservative voters ambivalent on whether delays to net zero targets are in touch, or out of touch with public sentiment:

Opposition to climate policies is not only found in right-leaning editorials, however. An analysis by the the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found a surge in what they call ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube in 2023. These include attempts to discredit green energy technologies, or exaggerate their cost – positions that mirror the editorial content analysed by Carbon Brief.

The latest from the Net Zero timeline:

Opinion Insight 14th March 2024

Grantham Institute survey: What benefits do people think climate policies will bring?

Policies to cut carbon can bring a range of ‘co-benefits’. From cleaner air, to warmer homes, to the prospect of green jobs, these co-benefits have often been advocated as a way to build support for net zero among people who may be more interested in these side-effects of climate policies than net zero itself.

In a new survey led by Neil Jennings at the Grantham Institute (Imperial College London), just over 1000 people were asked to assess nine different potential co-benefits of action on climate change.

The top response was ‘homes that are more affordable to heat’. This was chosen as the most important benefit for individuals, for communities, and for the country as a whole. It was also supported by voters of all parties. In the context of the eyewatering cost of energy over the past two years, cheaper heating bills were a universally popular co-benefit of action on climate change.

Another popular response was ‘improved energy security’. This makes a lot of sense, given that the rise in energy prices over the past two years was driven by a spike in the price of imported gas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And there’s growing evidence that renewables as a route to a more secure, homegrown energy system is a popular proposition across the political spectrum.

Interestingly, there was much less support for the idea that climate policies could be drivers of job creation. The prospect of green jobs has routinely been used by campaigners and politicians alike to build support for net zero. But this survey – backed by wider research – suggests that claims about green jobs may not land as well as is assumed.

But the survey makes it clear there’s work to do to persuade the public that even the most popular co-benefits are feasible in practice, with fewer people agreeing they’re practically achievable than identifying them as desirable in the first place.

The problem here isn’t a lack of positivity towards job creation, its the level of trust in the government to deliver them. Whether its warmer homes, energy security, or new green jobs, practical and tangible examples of climate policies actually delivering the benefits people want to see play a crucial role.

Climate policies really can deliver a whole host of positives. But when it comes to persuading the public of net zero co-benefits, seeing is believing.

  • Source: Imperial College London
  • Authors: Dr Neil Jennings, Dr Pauline Paterson, Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, Dr Candice Howarth
  • Date: 6th March 2024
Policy Insight 7th March 2024

Spring Budget 2024: A small number of ‘green-tinged’ measures

The Spring 2024 budget was extremely light on green spending announcements – making it one of the least green budgets” of recent years according to reporting in The Guardian.

Given that the net zero economy is booming across the country – and that both voters and MPs see clean energy as the sector most likely to generate further growth – the absence of additional green investment is perhaps the most striking climate takeaway.

There were a smattering of ‘green tinged’ announcements (rounded up by Carbon Brief) which included:

  • A rise in Air Passenger Duty levied on Business Class flights and above, which have higher per-passenger carbon emissions. This policy reflects the broad agreement among voters that those who emit the most through their flights should pay more. However, ‘new taxes on flying’ were one of the (not yet implemented) policies that Rishi Sunak ‘scrapped’ in his net zero speech in September 2023.
  • An extension of the current ‘windfall tax’ being levied on oil and gas company profits will be extended until 2029. This is a straightforwardly popular policy: polling by Greenpeace in 2023 found that almost nine in ten people (87%) want to see a loophole-free windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies. And Climate Barometer tracker data shows that energy companies are seen as one of main culprits for the current high price of energy (alongside the war in Ukraine, and the government themselves).

The budget did not include any measures to reduce the cost of charging electric vehicles (EVs) – something that the former Top Gear journalist Quentin Wilson’s FairCharge campaign had been calling for. In fact, by extending the freeze on duty charged on petrol and diesel fuels, the budget prioritised petrol and diesel motoring over EVs.

  • Date: 6th March 2024
Opinion Insight 18th January 2024

Survey: Knowing someone with a heat pump increases support

In a survey of 2000 people, researchers at Cardiff and Bath universities explored public support for low carbon heating technologies (including heat pumps), and the factors that influence this support.

The survey found the majority of the respondents had at least a small amount of knowledge about low carbon heating options, and when provided with further information, held favourable views. Heat pumps (likely due to their prominence in policy discussions) were identified as the low carbon heating technology with the highest level of support.

Concerns about energy security, and pro-environmental attitudes were two factors which led to higher support for heat pumps. But the research also uncovered another important driver: knowing someone who has already had one installed.

Dubbed the ‘social circle effect’, people’s willingness to adopt low carbon heating options increased if they knew even one person who already had a heat pump.

View Net Zero timeline now

Add Feedback