Only 22% of Britons trust Sunak on climate, finds Guardian poll

<span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Photograph: Reuters

Only 22% of people trust Rishi Sunak to tackle the climate crisis after his announcement that he will weaken the UK’s net zero policies.

An exclusive poll for the Guardian found that fewer than a quarter of people trust the prime minister to take on the challenge. A total of 53% said they did not trust him, while 19% said they did not know.

The polling company Omnisis also asked respondents whether they thought forcing landlords to insulate their homes would benefit them, and 55% said it would. Sunak has dumped plans to fine landlords who do not update their homes to acceptable energy efficiency standards.

The Guardian poll questioned 1,313 people on 21 September and is weighted to a nationally representative population. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council.

This week, in one of his biggest policy changes since taking office, Sunak confirmed the UK would push back the deadline for selling new petrol and diesel cars and the phasing-out of gas boilers, prompting furious condemnation from the automobile and energy industries, as well as some Conservatives including Boris Johnson and the former environment minister Zac Goldsmith.

Though Sunak claims that his changes will save consumers money, this has been disputed by many experts. For instance, private renters will pay £1bn a year more in energy bills because of the scrapping of proposals to make landlords upgrade insulation on their properties, according to the Social Market Foundation.

Pushing back the deadline for phasing-out sales of new petrol and diesel cars would also cost consumers money, as electric vehicles save drivers £5,000 to £8,000 in fuel costs over their lifetime, the thinktank said.

The Conservatives risk losing seats in the “blue wall” of affluent, pro-remain Tory constituencies in southern England because of net zero decisions made this week, polling commissioned by Greenpeace has suggested. Concerns over climate and nature are higher than the national average in the blue wall and scores of marginal seats, the survey of 20,000 people showed.

The detailed, constituency-level polling of people across Great Britain by Survation, which factors in the new boundaries for the next general election, found that of those who had an opinion, 70% stated that climate and environment policies were important and would influence how they would vote in the next election.

The results are higher in the blue wall, where the Conservatives are predicted to hold only 29 out of 52 seats, and in the most marginal constituencies, with overwhelming support for almost all specific climate policies and almost three in four blue wall and marginal constituents (72% and 71% respectively) stating that those policies would influence how they would vote.

In blue wall and marginal battlegrounds, more than four in five (85% in the blue wall, 86% in the most marginal seats) of constituents who had an opinion wanted the government to provide more financial support to insulate homes, and almost four in five (73% for both) wanted more government funding for heat pumps. They also wanted to see more government investment for renewable power (88% and 87%) and subsidised rail travel to ensure it was always cheaper than driving (79% for both).

Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, said: “Voters in the most hotly contested seats are saying that climate change matters to them, and they want bold policies to tackle it. But in a desperate attempt to play politics with the climate, Sunak risks haemorrhaging his party’s support in Tory strongholds and key marginals.

“This endless flip-flopping on such vital issues will not only leave people with higher bills and a damaged economy, but it could badly backfire against Sunak’s party at the next election unless the government changes tack.”