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Political Leadership

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

22 September 2023

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.

The latest from the Political Leadership timeline:

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.

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