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Behaviour Change

Climate action dashboard: Trends in public opinion 2020-2023

14 March 2024

The centre for Climate Change & Social Transformations (CAST) has published a revamped version of its data portal, giving quick access to international surveys of public opinion on a wide range of climate issues from 2020-2023.

The Climate Action dashboard displays trends in people’s intentions to make different lifestyle changes in the UK (alongside international data).

Although there’s wide variation across different behaviours in terms of people’s overall willingness to engage in them (from the 80% of people who try to avoid food waste, to the 11% who say they would follow a vegan diet), one overall trend is clear: there’s no meaningful drop-off between 2020 and 2023 in any of the behaviours.

Some show a spike in 2021, likely linked to the Covid 19 pandemic (e.g. avoiding flying) or the surge in global climate activism that preceded it. But none are lower than the 2020 baseline.

That’s important to bear in mind when there’s discussion of public support for climate action weakening. Data like this show clearly that it isn’t, even if some of the more impactful lifestyle changes people could make (like following a vegan or vegetarian diet) don’t yet have majority support.

Reference article:

The latest from the Behaviour Change timeline:

Opinion Insight 5th January 2024

Research paper: Reducing inequality makes behaviour change for net zero more achievable

In an open access research paper in the journal Nature Climate Change, Charlotte Kukowski and Emma Garnett argue that reducing inequality is not simply a positive ‘co-benefit’ of well-designed climate policies (although in a cost of living crisis, the affordability of green policies is a major consideration for voter support).

Instead the authors argue that many of the behavioural changes necessary to reduce emissions from travel or food consumption are simply not possible where income inequalities remain high. The paper uses an example of rural/urban travel costs and rent prices to illustrate how it may be easier for wealthier citizens to make low carbon travel choices:

While London boasts the cheapest bus fares and the most comprehensive public transport network in the UK, it also ranks highest for house prices and rents. Although rent and property prices can be lower in rural areas than in cities, the deregulation and subsequent privatization of the UK bus network in the 1980s have led to fare increases, a marked decrease in ridership, service fragmentation, increased car ownership and dependence, and transport-associated social exclusion, which disproportionately affect poorer citizens in rural communities

The analysis and recommendations for addressing ‘carbon inequality’ offer a different way of thinking about the challenge of population-scale behaviour changes: many policies are not currently viewed as fair by the public in large part because they aren’t currently equally accessible to people across the income spectrum.

The paper concludes that addressing general inequality, in turn makes behaviour change for net zero more feasible.

Climate Barometer Tracker 30th November 2023

Tracker data: What actions are the public and MPs taking to address climate change?

The latest Climate Barometer tracker data compares the actions that the public and MPs say they are taking to address climate change in their personal lives.

The most frequent behaviours include: Recycling and reducing plastic use, reducing electricity use, and buying local foods and reducing food waste

The least frequent behaviours include: becoming vegan, installing heat pumps, carbon offsetting when flying, and installing solar panels

MPs are more likely to take part in actions like walking/cycling or taking public transport to work, driving an electric vehicle, as well as buying local foods and choosing environmentally friendly brands (likely due to MPs being part of a subset of the population who are wealthier). 

There’s a similar trend for household behaviours, where MPs are more likely to have improved their home insulation, and switched to renewable energy. However, this does not carry through to all areas: MPs have not installed solar panels or a heat pump in greater numbers than the public. MPs are understandably more likely to have contacted MPs about climate change than the public. 

Around 17% of both MPs and the public say they have taken none of these actions for environmental reasons.

View Behaviour Change timeline now

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