Do we trust our government when it comes to its policy response on climate change? This is the kind of question asked by a very timely new piece of research revealing the views of thousands of citizens across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK. In this SustMeme Guest Post, Neil Gupta, MD of Glow UK, the research platform behind the study, asks: Is the UK more or less pessimistic than most countries about the prospects for overcoming climate change?
NG: Confidence in elected officals might be coming under exceptional pressure during the pandemic, but results of new global research demonstrate that even pre-COVID-19, the UK was the only country where less than half the citizenry believed climate change could be overcome.
This worrying finding comes in the midst of much discussion as to whether the coronavirus crisis is going to take precedence over the climate crisis, anyway, given that many major companies are potentially having to scale back their climate commitments as a matter of survival.
With only 48% of respondents in the UK believing climate change can be overcome, this makes it the most pessimistic nation ahead of increasing challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what are the chances post C-19 that we will still be able to address climate change as quickly as once thought, especially if we didn’t even really believe it was possible in the first place?
Trust and satisfaction: What do people really think?
At Glow UK, we recently released our inaugural not-for-profit study, Climate Catalyst, revealing the views of 5,256 citizens across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK as to their level of trust and satisfaction with governmental response to climate change, preferred policies for adoption, and how well their elected officials are delivering on expectations.
Our intention is to use data to break down the walls between what leaders do and what citizens demand — with the end goal that this can be a catalyst for change.
Overall, the report found that most citizens (75%) want their governments to do more to combat the threat of climate change, with the UK a little over average at 81%.
A large portion of citizens surveyed in all countries, bar nuclear-free New Zealand, are in support of nuclear power as an alternative to coal. In the US, currently home to 98 operating nuclear power plants, 46% are for, 25% are against nuclear power. In Canada and the UK where nuclear power is legal, it is respectively 47% for, 21% against, and 44% for, 22% against.
Mirroring public praise for actions taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand government leads the pack with both the most trusting (Net Trust Score = 15) and most satisfied (56%) citizens. This is compared to Canada with 48% satisfied, followed by the UK and the US both at 41%, while Australia trails behind at 38%.
As for policy, this varies by market. So, applying a UK lens, whilst most citizens favour soft measures, such as education (74%), research (77%) and planting trees (78%), there is support for immediate implementation on historically ‘tough’ measures. Over half support the banning of coal for electricity (56%), and coal exports (50%). Of those in support, half want these actions to come into effect immediately.
Banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars, arguably the most tangible action that would impact citizens, was the least favoured measure, yet still supported by 2 in 5 people.
What does this tell us about whether we will be able to address climate change?
People care and want their voices heard. And if they know their voices might be heard, this will encourage action which will, in turn, create true change. We hope Climate Catalyst will be an opportunity to inspire governments and the public to collaborate in order to create a better future, together.
Neil Gupta is UK Managing Director of Glow UK, the research technology business pioneering the People’s Climate Catalyst and leading this global research program. You can view and download the inaugural Climate Catalyst Report here.
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