UK should be ‘ambitious on climate regardless of action by other countries’

Almost two-thirds of people think the UK should be one of the most ambitious countries in the world when it comes to tackling climate change, a poll suggests.

The survey for climate communications charity Hope for the Future found that 62% of those questioned said the UK should be one of the most ambitious countries on climate action, regardless of what other nations are doing.

Less than a fifth (19%) think the UK should not take steps to address climate change until other, bigger countries such as China agree to do so too.

Two-thirds (67%) of the 4,026 people polled by Opinium also believe the UK is better able to take meaningful action on climate change when working with other countries.

The poll found 59% think the UK could have a positive influence on other countries’ plans to tackle climate change if it prioritises its role as president of Cop26 – the UN climate talks –  which continues until it hands over to Egypt to host Cop27 in late 2022.

Questioning people before and just after the Cop26 summit in Glasgow revealed that after the conference more people (35%) thought it would be successful in tackling climate change issues than did so beforehand (28%).

It also reinforced other polling which shows that people think climate change is one of the most significant issues facing the UK, with climate in this latest survey coming second only to health and the NHS as a top priority.

The survey found that 29% believe action to tackle climate change should have started sooner and progress is not being made, while 41% think it should have started sooner but some progress is being made.

When it comes to cutting their carbon footprint, two-fifths (39%) indicated they are likely to replace their gas boiler with a cleaner alternative, 42% said they are likely to drive an electric car, and nearly half (47%) are likely to vote for a political party because of its climate change policy, the poll found.

More than half (51%) think one of the biggest potential benefits of cutting emissions and protecting the environment is reducing damage to nature, while almost as many (47%) believe it could reduce the risk of extreme weather events.

And 35% said it could reduce the risk of illnesses such as asthma and pneumonia and save the NHS money.

Sarah Jordan, director of Hope for the Future, said: “This new data powerfully shows that public concern and desire for action on climate is getting stronger all the time.

“Whatever people might think of the outcome at Cop26, the public continues to see climate change as a shared global crisis and a shared global responsibility.

“We all depend on the natural world and are all suffering the effects of more extreme weather. People know what’s at stake and understand the need to act sooner rather than later.”

And she said: “Even though Cop26 is over, people see a role for Britain in the world in continuing to co-operate with other countries to bring about change.

“They also see a whole range of benefits playing out closer to home.”

– Hope for the Future is a charity which aims to equip communities, groups and individuals with the skills to communicate the urgency of climate change with their local politicians.