The public is divided on whether Rishi Sunak was right to water down the UK’s net zero commitments – but most do not trust the Conservatives to protect the environment, a new poll has found.
Two-thirds of people told pollster Ipsos they did not trust the Conservatives to make the right decisions on the environment, in a poll carried out after the Prime Minister announced changes to his policies on climate change.
On Wednesday, Mr Sunak insisted he was not watering down the UK’s overall target of reaching net zero by 2050, but pushed back the deadline for phasing out gas boilers and petrol cars and scrapped plans to make landlords improve their properties’ energy efficiency.
Around three-quarters of people said they knew at least something about Mr Sunak’s changes, but these were evenly split on whether they thought it was the right decision.
Some 47% thought Mr Sunak had made the right decision, while 46% thought he had been wrong. People who voted Conservative in 2019, however, were much more likely to think he had made the right decision, with only 25% saying he had got it wrong.
Although the Prime Minister sought to cast his changes as based on long-term thinking, only a quarter of the public said they thought he was taking a long-term approach, while 39% thought he was being short-termist.
There is also little confidence that the UK will meet its net zero target, with two-thirds saying they were not confident even before Wednesday’s announcement. Following the announcement, 48% said they were now less confident the UK would meet its targets, while 13% said they were more confident.
Gideon Skinner, head of UK politics at Ipsos, said: “Rishi Sunak is facing a balancing act with his recent announcement on delaying or cancelling some net zero policies, needing to show the public he is still taking climate change seriously while also addressing concerns about the cost of living.
“These latest results suggest the immediate public reaction to the announcement is split, with as many thinking it was the right decision as the wrong one – with at least his own 2019 base more clearly in favour.
“However, there is less sign that it has improved overall levels of trust in the Conservatives on the cost of living, while confidence in them on the environment is also low.
“More work is needed both to deliver improvements on the economy and to engage with public concerns that a long-term approach on climate change really is being taken, in order to change people’s minds.”
Trust in the Conservatives to address the cost of living has fallen, with only 15% saying they had confidence that the party would improve things, down from 24% in April.
Mr Sunak’s personal ratings have also declined, with more than half of people saying they thought he was doing a bad job as Prime Minister for the first time since he took over almost a year ago.
Some 52% said they thought he was doing a bad job, and only 19% thought he was doing a good job – a lower proportion than thought Boris Johnson was doing a good job just before he resigned in July last year.
Labour continues to lead the Conservatives on managing Britain’s taxes and spending, reducing the cost of living and making the right decisions on protecting the environment.
The Ipsos poll sampled 1,077 British adults between September 20 and 21.