“In the face of economic challenge, there is a perception that the public no longer cares about climate change, or living more sustainably.
The reality of public opinion on environmental issues is more positive. Support for action on climate change remains strong, and austerity has made saving energy and cutting waste more normal and important. Most people want their lifestyles to be both green and affordable: the challenge is to devise solutions that make this possible.”
These are the key findings of opinion research by the Green Alliance in their recent report, ‘What people really think about the environment: an analysis of public opinion’.
Concern about climate change
Compared to before the financial crisis, more people now rate ‘the economy’ as the most important issue facing the country, and fewer people think that ‘environmental issues’ are the most pressing. However, there is still a great deal of concern about climate change and the risks that it poses to people in Britain and around the world:
- 71% of people were still very concerned or fairly concerned about climate change
- Two thirds of people believe that climate change poses risks to people in Britain
- On a global scale, people think that climate change is more of a concern than the economy
Green behaviour is on the rise
Green behaviour is steadily becoming more commonplace in Britain. The number of people claiming to take measures to be more energy efficient increased from 41% in 2004 to 61% in 2009.
An Ipsos MORI study on micro renewable systems and energy efficiency in 2009 concluded that “Householders are excited by the new technologies, considering them technologies of the future and, in general terms, a ‘no brainer’.”
Recycling and composting is increasing too. In 2011, 70% of householders in England described themselves ‘committed recyclers’ compared to only 45% in 2004.
Spending on ‘green goods and services’ increased by 18% between 2007 and 2009, ‘green home expenditure’ rose by nearly 14% between 2009 and 2010, and ‘eco travel and transport’ increased by 17.8% in the same period, according to The Co-operative’s ethical consumerism report.
Not just a luxury
It’s not just the middle classes who care about ‘being green’. A survey by Asda showed that customers on the lowest and highest incomes were equally likely to say that using less energy and water at home was ‘normal’ or ‘intelligent’.
It also revealed that customers on the lowest incomes (socio-economic categories D and E) were the most likely of all groups to say that they ‘care very much about being green’.
The report says ‘Austerity Britain hasn’t pushed the green issues off the agenda, instead it’s made saving energy and cutting waste…the new normal’.
Rising energy bills
Some newspapers incorrectly blamed the increasing energy prices in 2011 on green levies, and new renewables and energy efficiency measures. In reality this rise was mainly due to the global increase in gas, oil and coal prices, and the public recognised this.
According to Asda, only 5% of the population blamed the new green measures for the increase in costs; 56% thought energy companies were charging more, and 29% blamed global energy costs.
A YouGov survey commissioned by The Sunday Times demonstrated widespread support for renewable technologies:
- 74% of adults think government should use more solar energy than at present
- 60% said government is right to subsidise wind technology