This report should provide the Government with confidence that the net zero agenda does not appear likely to become a significant dividing line in British politics. Voters are near-unanimous in their belief of the need to act with urgency and the benefits of doing so. But it also uncovers some hard truths. There is real concern about how much the transition will cost voters, and how they may need to change their homes. Striking the right balance between decarbonising at pace and protecting consumers will be key.
Voters overwhelmingly support tackling climate change, but enthusiasm is undermined by the costs of what it will take to get to net zero.
This major new study interrogates public attitudes towards net zero, finding that while concern for climate change was once a concern of the few it is now ubiquitous across generations, income groups and the electorate. But how deep does this concern go?
The study finds that two thirds of voters (67%) think the Government is not being bold enough in tackling climate change, while 78% believe that if we put off action on climate change now, it will be more costly in the future. Voters from every age group, ethnicity, region and social grade, as well as both Leave and Remain and Conservative and Labour voters support bolder action in principle.
But support in principle softens in practice, particularly when people were questioned about making changes to their homes. Only 46% of those surveyed said they were “happy to pay higher prices for fuel and household items if it leads to less carbon being emitted into the atmosphere”, with nearly two thirds (64%) of 2019 Conservative voters opposed.
This was clear when we tested certain policies, both with and without the costs attached. For example, net support for making every household install insulation and double glazing falls from +36% blind to -12% when the estimated cost of £8,000 per household is revealed.
To truly understand the depth of support for different policies, the study constructed a Net Zero Index, measuring support for different policies once the likely cost, perceived impact and relative urgency of each policy had been taken into account. This index shows, most importantly, net support for each policy tested – but also reveals some sharper defining lines amongst the electorate.