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  • Overview
  • Feb '24
    Survey: Three quarters of the public are worried about the impact of climate change on their bills
  • Nov '23
    Comment: Climate vs the cost of living?
  • Tracker data: Majority of public think climate inaction will cost too much
  • Tracker data: Who is to blame for the high cost of energy bills?
  • Oct '23
    National Infrastructure Commission recommends low income households should be given free heat pumps
  • Tracker data: The public blames government and the energy system (not green initiatives) for high bills
  • Sep '23
    Onward polling: Voters rank green policies as the least likely reason for cost of living crisis
  • Greenpeace polling: Blue Wall constituents want subsidies for net zero policies (and will vote on climate)
  • Do people think net zero will be expensive, or can the costs fall fairly?
  • Aug '23
    Progressive Policy Institute report: working class voters’ views on climate policies
  • Ipsos polling: Voters have an appetite for helping the environment alongside concerns about affordability
  • Dec '22
    ECIU report: What is the cost of ‘Not Zero’?
  • Oct '22
    Message testing guide: How to talk about the cost of living and climate crises at the same time
Topic

Cost of Living

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  • In Brief

    When the price of energy, food, fuel, building materials and much more besides began rising sharply in 2021 (in the wake of Covid 19, supply chain disruptions from Brexit, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), it triggered widespread worries about the costs of everyday living.

    With millions of people facing serious struggles with household finances, these costs have unsurprisingly been the dominant issue in opinion polls since then, with a knock-on effect on the relative importance and salience of other issues including climate change.

    One of the most significant rises in household costs has come through energy bills. In the government’s Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT),  two-thirds of people surveyed in 2023 expressed worry about paying their energy bills, with energy bills the cost that most people were most worried about over and above food and fuel.  

    With rising costs and acute financial struggles the dominant concern in opinion polls, how has this impacted the discourse on climate change and net zero?

  • Opinion Insight 21st February 2024

    Survey: Three quarters of the public are worried about the impact of climate change on their bills

    In a survey of 2000 people carried out by Opinium, on behalf of Positive Money, 75% of UK adults were concerned about the impact of climate change on the cost of heating or cooling their home, while 69% were worried about the impact of grocery prices, 54% on the price of housing or rent, 74% on electricity costs, 68% on the cost of water and 59% on transport costs.

    These concerns about ‘climateflation’ show that the perceived impacts of climate change are not confined to changes in the weather (although these are becoming more noticeable to people too).

    Climate Barometer data backs this up – concern about the impact of climate change on household bills was the third most common choice behind ‘harm to nature and wildlife’ and ‘suffering and hardship for the world’s poorest’.

    Separate analysis investigating the cost of ‘not zero‘ (i.e. not pursuing net zero goals fast enough) by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) supports people’s concerns: households really are facing higher bills because of a lack of action on climate change. Their calculations reveal that cumulative savings of £70bn on the UK’s energy bill could have been made had investments happened over past decade.

    The Positive Money report emphasises that these climate-linked costs are disproportionately felt by lower income households.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 10th November 2023

    Tracker data: Majority of public think climate inaction will cost too much

    Despite having concerns about the costs of climate change, and the cost of living, people in the UK have a clear understanding of the trade-offs necessary for climate action. Despite minor shifts, a majority still feel that it will cost too much *not* to tackle climate change now. A smaller percentage (23% in our most recent wave)  say that “it will cost too much to tackle climate change now”.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 9th November 2023

    Tracker data: Who is to blame for the high cost of energy bills?

    The public primarily blame the Russia-Ukraine war,  the UK government, and energy companies for high energy bills, with slight changes since Autumn 2022. More of the public blame energy companies in 2023 compared to 2022, and a steady decline in blame attributed to the Russia-Ukraine war.

    Policy Insight 18th October 2023

    National Infrastructure Commission recommends low income households should be given free heat pumps

    Independent advisers the National Infrastructure Commission has recommended in a new report that low income households are given free heat pumps to aid the transition away from gas boilers.

    Polling shows that there is currently some hesitation – especially among Conservative voters – around the phasing out of gas boilers over the next decade, with a belief that net zero policies will be ‘expensive’ becoming widespread.

    Policies such as this – were it to be enacted – would reflect calls for a ‘Fairness Lock’ from IPPR, protecting the least able to pay from the costs of  the green transition.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 18th October 2023

    Tracker data: The public blames government and the energy system (not green initiatives) for high bills

    The public feels that the UK government’s role in high energy bills comes from roughly two areas: one is a failure reform energy market, not transitioning to renewable energy faster, allowing the UK to become too dependent on gas; the second is in privatising energy companies and only looking after the interests of big energy companies. Overall it appears that people understand that the energy system is not working and green initiatives are far from people’s minds on this issue.

    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 23rd September 2023

    Greenpeace polling: Blue Wall constituents want subsidies for net zero policies (and will vote on climate)

    Underscoring the message that people are not opposed to net zero policies, but do not consider themselves in a position to foot the bill for them, Greenpeace polling of 20,000 voters found that in Blue Wall constituencies:

    • 85% constituents who had an opinion want the government to provide more financial support to insulate homes
    • 73% want more government funding for heat pumps.
    • 88% want more government investment for renewable power and 79% want subsidised rail travel to ensure it is always cheaper than driving
    • 80% support the idea of a wealth tax on the richest 1% of people to fund action on climate change, and 87% want to see a loophole-free windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies.

    Taken together, these results suggest a strong appetite for a range of climate policies, so long as the right people (the wealthiest individuals and oil & gas companies) pick up the tab

    • Source: Greenpeace
    • Author: Mal Chadwick
    • Date: 26th September 2023
    Opinion Insight 8th September 2023

    Do people think net zero will be expensive, or can the costs fall fairly?

    In polling carried out by Redfield & Wilton, people were asked ‘how expensive’ it will for the United Kingdom to commit to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. They report that a majority of voters (61%) believe it will ‘expensive’ or ‘very expensive’ for the country to pursue net zero targets, with only 26% agreeing that the costs of the transition have been ‘fairly applied so far’.

    In this poll, people were not asked how expensive they thought it would be for them or at a household level, so it is not clear on what basis the cost estimate is being made. Wider polling shows there is a general expectation that the fossil fuel industry and energy companies should foot the bill for climate change, rather than this coming through taxation.

    That said, there is a clear flag here for campaigners: the public will need convincing that the costs of the transition can be fairly applied (and that in practice they actually are).

    Policies like IPPR’s ‘Fairness Lock‘ are designed to articulate what ‘fairly applied’ means in practice – aiming to protect lower-income households from the costs of green policies. And Climate Barometer tracker data (below) offers another way to gauge what ‘fair’ could look like.

    We asked people to imagine that the UK taking effective action to reduce climate change required some increases in tax to pay for these efforts. Who should pay these taxes?

    As the figure shows, the most popular responses are split between ‘everyone’, those who earn over £50,000 (the higher tax rate) and ‘no one’, although the balance of these responses moves around according to voting intention, underscoring the different notions of fairness held by different voters.

    Opinion Insight 10th August 2023

    Progressive Policy Institute report: working class voters’ views on climate policies

    In a report covering a wide range of issues and working class voters’ views on them, support for climate policies was explored. The report found that support held up across the socio-political spectrum, aligning with similar findings from the Britain Talks Climate evidence base. But – with important implications for how politicians and campaigners present climate policies and how their costs will be distributed – most working class voters felt the costs of the transition should not be borne by ‘people like me’

    More working-class voters said the government is not doing or spending enough to try and reduce carbon emissions (34%), compared to those saying they are doing too much (25%), or getting the balance about right (16%), showing the awareness of climate action across all social groups. That said, they have a clear view when it comes to who pays: 53% agreed that it is important to combat climate change but “people like me should not be paying the cost of policies to reduce global carbon emissions”, whilst 16% said they would be prepared to pay some costs and 19% said they do not believe climate action is necessary

    Opinion Insight 6th August 2023

    Ipsos polling: Voters have an appetite for helping the environment alongside concerns about affordability

    In a poll of around 1000 people in early August, 2023, 51% said they’d like to do more to reduce climate change and help the environment, but that they couldn’t afford to.

    The same survey found that people think that the economic costs of climate change itself will be greater than the cost of measures to reduce climate change (by 41% – 22%)

    In the contrast between these two responses, a lot is revealed: whilst people want to do more, cost-of-living pressures put restrictions on this.

    But there is an acknowledgement that tackling climate change is less expensive than not tackling it.

    Policies that reduce the upfront costs of new technologies like heat pumps (through government subsidies or as uptake grows and prices fall) can help to square this circle, and are a crucial aspect of positioning climate policy as fair for voters.

    Policy Insight 4th December 2022

    ECIU report: What is the cost of ‘Not Zero’?

    In a new report from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), the costs to UK households of not reducing emissions to net zero are calculated: this is intended to challenge criticisms of the costs of net zero policies by making clear that not taking action has greater economic consequences.

    The report argues that climate impacts are costly to the UK economy, and delays to the rollout of renewable energy and insulation schemes also mean households incur costs they needn’t be incurring: these are the costs of not zero

    If the UK had not delayed in deploying renewables, insulation, rooftop solar panels, heat pumps and electric vehicles, some households could have saved around £1,750 on bills in 2022. Plus, homes are facing more than £400 extra in food bills this year because of the impact of climate change and oil and gas prices on the farming and food system. This amounts to a potential £2,150 added to household bills.

    • Date: 6th December 2022

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