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  • Overview
  • Apr '24
    Scotland drops 2030 emissions target but retains 2045 net zero ambition
  • 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
  • YouGov polling: Labour voters see government U-turns as a bad sign
  • Nov '23
    Tracker data: Low levels of trust in political parties to speak about climate change
  • Understanding perceptions of political leadership on climate change
  • Carbon Brief analysis of the language used in the autumn statement shows change climate given a low priority
  • Oct '23
    More in Common: Labour can increase support among key Red Wall ‘Loyal Nationals’ by focusing on green investment
  • Public First polling: Delays to net zero make a party less electable
  • Tracker data: Do MPs see Net Zero as a vote winner or loser in Red and Blue Wall seats?
  • Tracker data: MP and public opinion on government climate action
  • Sep '23
    Greenpeace polling: Climate will influence the next election in Blue Wall constituencies
  • More in Common: Most voters think the government is doing too little on climate
  • ECIU poll: net zero policy rollback viewed as ‘untrustworthy’ by most; ‘sensible’ by some
  • Climate Citizens report: Sustaining the political mandate for climate action
  • Jun '23
    ACT Climate Labs guide: How to rebut ‘what about China and India’ arguments
  • Climate Change Committee: How the government can show leadership on climate change
  • Dec '22
    Video clip testing: Voters are more likely to support Labour when they hear them talking about climate change
  • Nov '22
    COP27 polling: Few see Rishi Sunak as showing leadership, but most support climate funds for poorer nations
  • Nov '21
    Ahead of COP26, Loyal Nationals express scepticism around around international cooperation
  • Jun '21
    Research paper: High carbon lifestyles can undermine climate messaging
  • Oct '20
    Britain Talks Climate: Most people are unsure which party has best climate policies
Topic

Political Leadership

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  • In Brief

    Since the earliest investigations into public opinion on climate change, it’s been clear that the public expect and want the government to take the lead on climate change.

    Famously, the UK’s Climate Change Act was world-leading when it was first passed – and in 2019, the central target was upgraded from an 80% cut in emissions to net-zero emissions by 2050.

    But although claims of political leadership have persisted – including around the UK’s hosting of the annual UN climate conference in Glasgow in 2021 – periodic assessments by the Climate Change Committee have in recent years highlighted a slowing of progress, and explicitly called for the UK to ‘regain its international political leadership’.

    Set against historically low trust in politicians and widespread disengagement from the political system, people nonetheless consistently say that the government should be doing and spending more on climate change.

    This thread brings together relevant opinion data around political leadership (from the public and MPs through our Climate Barometer tracker), set against key policy developments that help make sense of if, how and why opinion is changing.

  • Policy Insight 30th April 2024

    Scotland drops 2030 emissions target but retains 2045 net zero ambition

    Following sharp criticism from the Climate Change Committee (which said the Scottish government was failing to deliver on its net zero goals and had no credible delivery strategy), a target to reduce the country’s emissions by 75% by 2030 was dropped.

    The Scottish Net Zero Cabinet Secretary Màiri McAllan said she “accepted” the target was no longer achievable.

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) seemed reluctant to concede the target they had set was now impossible to achieve. This stands in contrast to the rhetoric deployed by Rishi Sunak in September 2023 when he announced delays to some UK-level net zero goals, positioning them as a ‘burden’ that the government would protect voters from.

    The fallout from the SNP’s announcement was immediate and significant.

    The SNP’s power-sharing coalition with the Scottish Green Party was dissolved days later, with disagreement over the decision to scrap the 2030 target cited as one of the reasons for the breakdown of the agreement.  Humza Yousaf subsequently resigned as First Minister.

    Some commentary suggested that the disagreement over the climate targets reflected the divisiveness of net zero in Scotland, but a poll conducted whilst all of this was unfolding underscored the support among Scottish voters for the country’s net zero ambition.

    • Source: Net Zero Scotland
    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 8th February 2024

    YouGov polling: Labour voters see government U-turns as a bad sign

    YouGov tracker polling from February 2024 shows the British public have a mixed response to governments announcing policy U-turns, with roughly even numbers overall saying it’s ‘a good sign – showing they are willing to listen and change their minds when people complain or situations change’ (36%), and saying it’s ‘a bad sign – showing they are incompetent, weak, or have not thought their policies through properly in advance’ (34%).

    There are differences between voters though: Conservatives are more likely to look favourably upon government U-turns, with 51% seeing U-turns as a good thing. Those intending to vote Labour tend to lean the other way, with 41% opposing them.

    In the context of the Labour Party’s announcement it will drop its prior commitment to spending £28 billion a year on green investment, Labour voters are unlikely to support it if they view it as a U-turn.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 29th November 2023

    Tracker data: Low levels of trust in political parties to speak about climate change

    Climate Barometer tracker data shows that the public, and strikingly MPs, do not put the political party they voted for in the top three most trusted sources to speak on the subject of climate change.

    In the public data, only 2% selected this option, including only 1% of Conservative voters.

    For MPs, the figure is higher at 14%, but hardly a ringing endorsement.

    Because of the way the question was asked, sources with the ‘credentials’ to speak on climate change are likely to have been preferentially selected. However, the fact that the voters for (and political representatives of) their own political parties don’t see themselves as being trusted on climate suggests there is a space in the national political discourse for credible, climate-literate politicians.

    The top three trusted messengers for MPs are:

    1) Academics, 2) Naturalists such as David Attenborough and Chris Packham, and 3) The Climate Change Committee.

    The top three trusted messengers for the public are:

    1) Scientists, 2) Naturalists such as David Attenborough and Chris Packham, and 3) None of the above.

    Policy Insight 23rd November 2023

    Carbon Brief analysis of the language used in the autumn statement shows change climate given a low priority

    The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s 2023 autumn statement was presented as a plan for growing the UK economy, and addressing cost of living pressures through tax cuts and other measures.

    Analysis carried out by Carbon Brief found that Hunt used climate-related keywords less in his latest speech than in his first autumn statement in 2022, or in the spring statement earlier this year, and that he did not specifically mention “climate” at all.

    The graph tells a story of the prominence and salience of climate change set against economic considerations at different moments in the past decade-and-a-half.

    From the Climate Community 27th October 2023

    More in Common: Labour can increase support among key Red Wall ‘Loyal Nationals’ by focusing on green investment

    Writing for Labour List, More in Common’s Luke Tryl sets out why there is a chance to increase support among crucial ‘Red Wall’ voters (represented by the Loyal Nationals audience in More in Common’s Britain’s Choice model), arguing that:

    Perhaps the area with the greatest potential lies in Labour’s green prosperity plan. Public support for the plan is high at 57%, rising to 61% among loyal national voters and a mammoth 84% among the group of voters who opted for the Conservatives in 2019 but who are now voting Labour.

    Coupled with Public First polling showing that delaying net zero whilst failing to tax oil and gas companies is a vote loser, there is clearly a space for making a bolder, fair pitch to the electorate on green policies: consistent political leadership is an essential piece of the puzzle for building public support for the specifics of the transition.

    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
    Climate Barometer Tracker 26th October 2023

    Tracker data: Do MPs see Net Zero as a vote winner or loser in Red and Blue Wall seats?

    Climate Barometer tracker data shows MPs see ‘Red Wall’ and ‘Blue Wall’ seats quite differently. For ‘Blue wall’ seats (historically safe Conservative seats that have become swing seats), Conservative and Labour MPs correctly judge that net zero is a vote winner.

    For ‘Red wall’ seats (historically safe Labour seats that have become swing seats), Conservative and Labour MPs have very different opinions. Labour MPs are much more likely to say that net zero is a vote winner (37% in April 2023) compared to only 7% of Conservative MPs. But both groups of MPs have become more convinced during 2023 that net zero is a vote-loser in Red Wall seats.

    In fact, there are no voter groups (or age groups, genders or regions) where there is not comfortably more support than opposition for net zero.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 19th October 2023

    Tracker data: MP and public opinion on government climate action

    Climate Barometer polling shows that the majority of the public believe the government should be doing more to address climate change. MPs are more divided, with similar proportions saying the government should do more, and are doing the right amount to address climate change. Very few MPs or members of the public feel the government should do less.

    Opinion Insight 27th September 2023

    Greenpeace polling: Climate will influence the next election in Blue Wall constituencies

    In a survey of 20,000 people, and using the MRP method which allows conclusions to be drawn about specific political constituencies, Greenpeace found that of those who had an opinion, more than two thirds (70%) stated that climate and environment policies are important and will influence how they vote in the next election. For voters in Blue Wall seats, the study found:

    more than four in five of constituents who had an opinion want the government to provide more financial support to insulate homes and 73% want more government funding for heat pumps. They also want to see more government investment for renewable power (88%) and subsidised rail travel to ensure it is always cheaper than driving (79%).

     

     

    • Source: Greenpeace
    • Author: Mal Chadwick
    • Date: 26th September 2023
    Opinion Insight 22nd September 2023

    More in Common: Most voters think the government is doing too little on climate

    Voters in all of More in Common’s Britain’s Choice segments (including the more socially conservative segments) are more likely to say the Government is doing too little, rather than not enough, according to polling by in August 2023.

    Whilst delays to some near-term net zero policies are being considered by the government following the unexpected ‘hold’ by the Conservatives in the Uxbridge by-election in July (where opposition to the expansion of the ULEZ scheme was assumed to have played a role), this data from More in Common underscores the limited political capital to be made from rowing back on net zero.

    Voters in all Britain’s Choice segments (including the more socially conservative segments) are more likely to say the Government is doing too little, rather than not enough, according to polling by More in Common in August 2023
    Opinion Insight 22nd September 2023

    ECIU poll: net zero policy rollback viewed as ‘untrustworthy’ by most; ‘sensible’ by some

    In response to the government announcing changes to Net Zero policies (around the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, and gas boilers), a survey asked people to select the words they would use to describe the government pushing back or scrapping key climate policies.

    The most commonly selected word was “untrustworthy” (40%) – followed by “sensible” (29%) and chaotic (25%). Respondents said they’d describe Rishi Sunak as “reckless” (33%), “backwards” (31%), and “sensible (29%) if he were to push back these policies.

    Whilst these findings suggest there’s no straightforward political capital in watering down Net Zero goals, the percentage of people selecting ‘sensible’ to both questions is also important. For some members of the public – concentrated among Conservative voters – there’s a sense of pragmatism in delaying Net Zero targets.

    Wider research suggests, though, that the reason for this is important to take into account. Voters are not sceptical of green policies, but people don’t believe the government has a credible plan, that the infrastructure is ready, or that changes are currently being made affordable enough to undertake.

    These are all issues that a bolder, fairer offer to voters on Net Zero could address.

    Policy Insight 7th September 2023

    Climate Citizens report: Sustaining the political mandate for climate action

    Based on a set of interviews with 15 MPs, and a focus group with civil society representatives, new research – based on the findings of a collaboration between the Climate Citizens research group at Lancaster University, The Climate Coalition and the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations, and supported by Green Alliance – shows how the climate opinions of MPs have changed since 2018 when a previous round of research was carried out. The report states that:

    MPs are now much more concerned about climate; for them, it’s become a mainstream issue, but they have specific concerns that were not so evident before, particularly around how to manage the complex process of change.

    All the MPs interviewed stressed the importance of protecting people from potential negative impacts, such as higher costs or job losses in high carbon industries. They also fear a political backlash if climate action is seen as unfair.

    The report shows how the political agenda has shifted over five years, from the need to ‘do something’ to the pace of change.

    The mainstreaming of climate change in the political discourse over the past five years is important to recognise. But significant challenges remain in closing the gap between the political and the social mandate, with Climate Barometer tracker data showing that MPs continue to underestimate the salience of the environment among voters, to misjudge support for onshore wind, and to underestimate support for Net Zero (which outweighs opposition across society).

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