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  • Overview
  • Apr '24
    Green Alliance policy tracker: March 2024 update
  • Feb '24
    ECIU polling: more voters had heard about Labour’s green investment ‘U-turn’ than the policy itself
  • Voters want political leadership on climate change
  • Jan '24
    Research paper: Reducing inequality makes behaviour change for net zero more achievable
  • Nov '23
    Autumn Statement: Discounts on energy bills to be provided to households living near new electricity transmission infrastructure
  • Comment: Bumps on the road to net zero in 2023
  • Oct '23
    Public First polling: Delays to net zero make a party less electable
  • Climate Citizens report: MPs underestimate the importance of the environment for voters
  • Comment: What do the Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire by-elections tell us about support for climate policies?
  • Scrapping, banning or delaying? Why question wording matters for understanding opinion on net zero
  • Climate Change Committee: How behaviour change can become part of UK climate policies
  • Polling during Labour Party conference: There is support for removing fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2030
  • Sep '23
    Onward league table shows which net zero policies are popular among voters
  • Onward polling: Voters rank green policies as the least likely reason for cost of living crisis
  • Onward research: How to build support for net zero policies among Conservative voters
  • Public First: Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters
  • Greenpeace polling: Blue Wall constituents want subsidies for net zero policies (and will vote on climate)
  • More in Common: Most voters think the government is doing too little on climate
  • Comment: Polling makes misleading claims about support for clean air zones and net zero
  • Dec '22
    Understanding support for the frequent flyer levy
  • Sep '22
    Briefing paper: The road to net zero – UK public preferences for low-carbon lifestyles
  • Oct '21
    Government’s Net Zero strategy includes new oil & gas licensing
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Net zero

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    Policy Insight 8th April 2024

    Green Alliance policy tracker: March 2024 update

    The Green Alliance Net Zero policy tracker has monitored government policies since 2020. The March 2024 update compares progress against the emissions pathways set out in the Net Zero Strategy, last updated in 2023. The report concludes that across the whole economy, and for many individual sectors, there is a continued lack of progress on decarbonisation, and adds that ‘strong leadership is missing across the political spectrum’.

    Beyond the material threat to decarbonisation this lack of leadership poses, Climate Barometer tracker data is clear that voters want and expect leadership on climate change.

    Its absence therefore also undermines policies which require buy-in and acquiescence from the public, including the transition from gas boilers to electrified heat pumps.

    Opinion Insight 21st February 2024

    ECIU polling: more voters had heard about Labour’s green investment ‘U-turn’ than the policy itself

    In the wake of Labour’s announcement that their green investment pledge would be scaled back, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) commissioned snap polling from Opinium.

    Only 14% of people reported being ‘very aware’ of Labour’s (previously) proposed £28 billion a year investment plans. This is worth noting, as a significant amount of debate within green policy circles has focused on this specific number (but most of the public wasn’t aware of it in the first place).

    Roughly double the number of people (26%) said they were ‘very aware’ of the decision to reduce the £28 billion pledge, though, suggesting that for a significant number of people, the intense media debate around whether or not Labour would ‘U-turn’ would have been the first time they had encountered the policy.

    Read our analysis taking stock of what the policy shift from Labour is likely to have meant to voters here.

    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.

    Policy Insight 22nd November 2023

    Autumn Statement: Discounts on energy bills to be provided to households living near new electricity transmission infrastructure

    In the Chancellor Jeremy Hunnt’s Autumn Statement, it was confirmed that households living near proposed new electricity transmission infrastructure (i.e. the pylons and power lines required to transmit electricity from offshore wind and other renewable sources, to households) would be offered discounts on their electricity bills. The Chancellor said:

    ‘Following consultation earlier this year, we confirm that we are currently minded to provide both an electricity bill discount for properties located closest to transmission network infrastructure and a wider community benefit. The wider community benefit will be co-developed by the project developer and local community to best reflect community preferences. Our response to the consultation has been published alongside this document. We intend to publish guidance on wider community benefits in 2024. This guidance will be voluntary whilst we explore options for a mandatory approach. We will provide further information on the overall community benefits policy, including bill discounts and options for developing a mandatory approach, in 2024.’

    Opinion Insight 27th October 2023

    Public First polling: Delays to net zero make a party less electable

    Based on a survey of 2000 people, Public First have argued that a turn against net zero is a risky political maneuver: by testing different combinations of policy propositions with voters (on the environment and more widely) they found that green investment is one of the most universally popular offers across the electorate, and that whilst anti net-zero sentiment doesn’t move the dial much for those who agree it, for those who oppose it, its a significant vote loser. Public First reports that:

    Increased investment in renewable sources and new taxes on the largest polluters in a wider policy platform makes a party 14% more electable

    Delaying net zero and continued oil and gas drilling in the North Sea in a wider policy platform makes a party 10% less electable

    Voters have genuine questions (and in some cases concerns) about how specific green policies will impact their personal finances and day-to-day lives. These questions should be taken seriously by campaigners and politicians alike to build public support.

    But as an electoral strategy, this research shows that reducing net zero ambition, backing away from green investment, and failing to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels are vote losers, rather than winners.

    • Source: Public First
    • Author: Seb Wride
    • Date: 26th October 2023
    Opinion Insight 23rd October 2023

    Climate Citizens report: MPs underestimate the importance of the environment for voters

    The political mandate for climate action has strengthened over the past five years according to a report led by the Climate Citizens research group at Lancaster University. But the same report also notes there’s a belief among some MPs that climate concern is concentrated among middle-class and wealthier voters. One MP interviewed for the report said:

    If you’re struggling you’re not going to be thinking ‘has COP26 been of success or not?’ They don’t give a damn about offshore, onshore wind, that’s completely irrelevant to their lives.

    In fact, resources like Britain Talks Climate show climate change is important across social groups. And typically, the ‘loud minorities’ who oppose renewable energy projects are likely to be over-represented among wealthier constituents.

    Our Climate Barometer tracker data shows that MPs underestimate the salience of the environment for voters relative to other issues.

    Opinion Insight 17th October 2023

    Scrapping, banning or delaying? Why question wording matters for understanding opinion on net zero

    Scotland has a net zero policy framework that is more ambitious than the UK’s overall targets.

    Polling by PanelBase (commissioned by The Times) found Scottish public opinion on delaying the phase out of gas boilers and the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles was broadly in line with wider UK patterns, with support for delaying current heating targets slightly higher (45%) than opposition (38%), and support for delaying the petrol/diesel vehicle phase out date higher (51%) than opposition (38%).

    The wording of the question participants were asked on gas boilers was, however, misleading, with people asked if they supported or opposed “Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap the phasing out of gas boilers?”

    The policy has not been scrapped – the phase out date has been extended.

    Combined with the ‘scrapping’ of policies that did not in fact exist in Sunak’s September speech (e.g. a ‘meat tax’), there’s a pattern of using terms like ‘ban’ ‘scrap’ and ‘phase out’ interchangeably in a way that’s likely to mislead voters, and in this case potentially skew assessments of public opinion.

    Climate Barometer tracker data provides a clear signal over time on key net zero policies like the phasing out of petrol/diesel vehicles and gas boilers.

    Policy Insight 11th October 2023

    Climate Change Committee: How behaviour change can become part of UK climate policies

    A wide-ranging analysis from the centre for Climate Change & Social Transformations (CAST) on behalf of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) reveals that substantial behaviour change is required across society to reach the UK’s ambitious net-zero 2050 target, with 60% of reductions needing to come from (or at least be endorsed by) consumers

    In a series of recommendations for mainstreaming behaviour change approaches as part of the UK’s approach to climate policy, the report argues that:

    The provision of information is important in some circumstances – for example for young people choosing a green career –  and can provide a rationale for wider policy interventions. But the provision of information alone is not enough to shift consumption behaviours in society

    Climate policies which are perceived to be fair are more likely to be acceptable to the public.

    The public largely support a reduction in the consumption of red meat and dairy, with many already reducing their consumption of beef, pork and dairy products…altering the food environment, for example by taxing high-carbon foods, labelling, subsidising meat-free options, and increasing plant-based options, would be likely to encourage further (and more equitable) behaviour change

    Many of those who fly are reluctant to reduce their air travel because of its associations with pleasure, freedom, and social status (although recent studies suggest social norms around flying may be shifting). Strategies targeting individuals, such as increasing climate awareness or concern don’t typically result in behaviour change when it comes to air travel.

    However, a Frequent Flyer Levy or Frequent Air Miles Tax have the potential to be effective in reducing aviation demand and to be perceived as fair by the public.

    • Source: Climate Change Committee
    • Authors: Kaloyan Mitev, Lois Player, Caroline Verfuerth, Steve Westlake, Lorraine Whitmarsh
    • Date: 11th September 2023
    Opinion Insight 9th October 2023

    Polling during Labour Party conference: There is support for removing fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2030

    YouGov polling in October 2023 (during the Labour Party conference) shows more support (50%) than opposition (31%) for decarbonising the electricity supply by 2030. Among Conservative party voters, the balance of support-opposition is reversed.

    Whilst this level of support is lower than that generally seen for renewables (which is typically more than 70%), the 2030 target is a policy goal that some industry figures consider ambitious and will require – as analysis by Public First into the infrastructure required to decarbonise the grid has shown – ‘hitting the ground running’ if Labour takes power at the next election.

    Opinion Insight 29th September 2023

    Onward league table shows which net zero policies are popular among voters

    Public First and Onward tested the support of 24 policies which would cut greenhouse gas emissions (some were existing government policies and some were not). All 24 received net-positive ratings looking across all voters, with energy efficiency measures, ramping up renewables (wind and solar), incentivising green home upgrades, planting trees, investment in public transport, and policies to help people switch to electric cars all proving highly popular.

    Conservative voters currently did not support the phasing out of sales of new petrol/diesel cars by 2030 or gas boilers by 2035, but the report argues that:

    Importantly, opposition is to targets and deadlines rather than the technologies

     

    Understanding which net zero policies are consistently popular among the electorate is as important as understanding what the current barriers to support are for less popular policies: ‘win win’ ideas such as incentivising home upgrades/rolling out insulation are a way to hold the net zero conversation with voters on less contentious ground than, for example, low traffic neighbourhoods.

     

    Opinion Insight 29th September 2023

    Onward polling: Voters rank green policies as the least likely reason for cost of living crisis

    Polling by Public First and analysed by Onward, paints an important picture of how the public thinks about green policies in the context of the cost of living crisis.

    As the Figure below shows, out of 11 reasons offered to people as to why the cost of living has become higher, the “UK trying to be more environmentally friendly” comes last, a long way behind increased global demand and price of energy, the conflict in Ukraine, Brexit and Covid-19.

    Elsewhere in the report the authors write:

    Voters thought that greener forms of energy were cheaper. Over half of the public (56%) and Conservative voters (53%) thought that investing in wind and solar would bring their energy bills down (vs a quarter who felt that investing less) in renewables would reduce living costs.

    The message across these findings is clear: concerns about the cost of living are widely held, but green policies are not seen as the cause of the country’s current economic problems.

    Opinion Insight 27th September 2023

    Public First: Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters

    In research carried out just before Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing changes to the UK’s net zero targets in September 2023 (including a 4,000 sample, nationally-representative poll and eight focus groups of 2019 Conservative voters who are now undecided), Public First’s James Frayne argues that Sunak’s speech will have a maginally negative impact on overall support for the Conservatives. Read Frayne’s analysis here:

    Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters at all outside the bubble

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