The UK government recently announced its 10 point plan for a green recovery – on the same day Climate Outreach launched Britain Talks Climate, a toolkit that aims to engage on climate change across the whole of society. Achieving this will be essential if the government’s 10 point plan is to succeed.
Based on a 10,000-person survey of the British public, follow-up polls in May and September, and focus groups and in-depth interviews, Britain Talks Climate is one of the biggest analyses of public opinion on climate change ever to be conducted. It splits the British population up into seven distinct groups (based on the More in Common core beliefs model), and there’s lots we can infer about the government’s new plans from it.
Some elements of the 10 point plan are highly popular and have been for many years – there is widespread support for renewables, and the concept of wasting less through energy efficiency is something we have found is popular across our seven segments – from Disengaged Battlers (red wall voters) to Backbone Conservatives.
But the government needs to recognise that seemingly win-win insulation schemes have foundered before when they have treated people’s houses as boxes that need updating rather than homes that people have strong emotions about changing – it isn’t just an economic calculation.
Loyal Nationals – the group closest to ‘populism’, focused on the threat of migration – is the third most worried about climate change and recognises climate change is happening in the here and now. This group will likely support the funds for adaptation and resilience to floods and extreme weather, but we found they oppose the petrol/diesel phase out unless it can be shown to be financially accessible and fair.
Progressive Activists, the 13% of the population who see almost everything through a climate lens, will be pleased to finally see some plans for a green recovery – though many may not see it as ‘good enough’. Nuclear remains contentious (with most ‘reluctantly accepting’ it at best). This group, which tends to dominate the campaign discourse, must recognise that to bring the rest of society with them they need to reach out, and not only focus on ecological breakdown and climate emergencies but also point to signs of progress and genuine steps forward where they exist. If they don’t, groups like the culturally powerful Established Liberals will write them off as doom-mongers, and progress towards net zero will be slower.
The government’s announcement is welcome and not a moment too soon. But its vision of a green future is mostly a technocratic one, resting on economic stimulus and technological innovation. Progress towards net zero is a deeply human, social challenge too – with low-carbon lifestyles and public support both crucial pieces of the puzzle.
Our new research provides a glimpse of the future and different groups’ deeply-held views about the kind of society they want to belong to. The 10 point plan is a step in the right direction on the technocratic and infrastructural changes necessary for a low-carbon world, but this low-carbon world includes people, along with their habits, preferences, values, and ways of living. We need to mobilise all the tools we have to engage across the whole of society and match the green revolution with a revolution in public engagement – something that Britain Talks Climate is specifically designed to spark.
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