4 Nov 2021

Two thirds of UK public believe communities will be ‘left behind’ as we tackle the climate crisis

A new poll exploring public understanding of issues around climate change finds that almost two thirds of UK residents (64%) are not confident the government will achieve its net zero 2050 target without ‘leaving behind’ any parts of the country or local communities.

“We want to develop a deep and meaningful understanding of people’s questions about how net zero transition will affect their homes, jobs and family life, and how it will change local economies and neighbourhoods,” explains Emily Morrison, head of the Institute for Community Studies, which led the research.

People in Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and the Humber had the lowest confidence in a ‘just transition’ - and four of the UK's six largest industrial clusters, producing the greatest carbon emissions nationwide, are within these regions.

Responses to the survey overall reveal people’s confusion on how to reduce their household carbon footprint, as well as a perceived lack of accessible information. Of 2,100 16- to 75-year-olds surveyed, 42% say they are unsure how net zero will affect them, and 1 in 10 have never heard of it, despite the urgency of the challenge. Half say the cost of adapting their homes, transport and lifestyles to net zero is too high, and that not enough support is being made available.

There is some cause for optimism, however, as just 3% of people say they are not interested in lowering their carbon footprint, and around a quarter are optimistic that their jobs and prospects could improve if they are given the necessary support to upskill or change sectors. Interestingly, unemployed people and those working in ‘semi-skilled and unskilled’ occupations were the most optimistic about the prospects that transition could bring – with 33% believing that net zero will have a positive impact on their job security.

Following the poll, the Institute for Community Studies will be coordinating a project of local dialogue across the UK.

In another project, The Young Foundation is working with communities, research bodies, civic organisations and local government to celebrate partnerships combatting climate change. This new competition, the Climate Challenge Cup, will culminate in a showcase and award ceremony with a keynote speech from Conservative MP Danny Kruger on 10 November at the COP26 Climate Change Conference. Tickets to join the virtual event are available for free.

“This poll draws into sharp focus the need for partnerships, such as those created by the Climate Challenge Cup finalists, that bring people together as we continue on this vital journey,” concludes,” says Helen Goulden, CEO of The Young Foundation, the UK’s centre for community research and social innovation. “Public engagement is crucial if we are to make a just and successful transition to net zero – and this poll gives crucial insights to help policy-influencers understand the scale of the challenge ahead”.