Press release | Oct. 10, 2020

YouGov poll finds majority of British public want the UK to lead world on tackling climate change

10 October 2020, London – More than two thirds (67 per cent) of the British public want to see the UK as world leader on climate change, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Global Witness, with this view consistent across all sectors of the population.

According to the poll, a majority in all age groups, regions – with Scotland the highest (69 per cent) -  genders, political party voters and both sides of the Brexit vote (remain 83 per cent and leave 56 per cent) want to see the British Government leading the world on climate action.

Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of the UK population also want to see the UK Government shifting the subsidies it currently provides to domestic oil and gas companies to instead support the expansion of renewable energy and increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes, whilst less than one in 10 (7 per cent) opposed such a shift.

Ken Penton, UK Climate Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“Off the back of a period of great political upheaval in the UK, with sharp divides, it’s welcome news that protecting the climate is one issue that unites everyone. The simple fact is you can’t be a global climate leader if you plan to carry on maximising the amount of oil and gas you produce, rather than support the growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

“As the host of the vital UN Conference of Parties in 2021 (COP), the UK has been intensifying its climate rhetoric – but will be judged on the real action it is prepared to take on curbing the oil and gas industry.

“This starts with scrapping the Maximising Economic Recovery policy that dictates the UK explore for and extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable. If the UK is to meet its own climate obligations, it cannot dig for any further fossil fuels beyond what is already in existing operational fields.”

The poll was conducted in late August, ahead of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the United Nations High-Level Roundtable on Climate Action on 24 September, and his speech at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this week. To the UN he said he wanted the UK “to be the Saudi Arabia of wind power”, and make UK homes “much less carbon-emitting”. And to the Conference he said “As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind – a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind without the carbon emissions, without the damage to the environment.”

A similar YouGov poll, also commissioned by Global Witness, of the Scottish public found three quarters of respondents were unaware the of UK Government’s “Maximising Economic Recovery” policy, to extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable. Meanwhile almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the Scottish population would like to see the Scottish Government training and skills spending go towards the renewable energy sector, whilst amongst 16-24-year-old voters, the environment and the climate was the most important issue.

Penton said:

“Time and time again we are told that the oil and gas industry is so important to Scotland because of the jobs it brings in, regardless of the disastrous impact this support has on the climate. This new data shows that nearly two-thirds of Scottish people would prefer their taxes be spent on training and skills to create a thriving renewable energy sector, rather than a volatile industry with a shrinking workforce that is contributing to the climate breakdown our planet is facing.”

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Notes to editor: