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Survey reveals public support for UK Government’s zero carbon emissions plan

Survey reveals public support for UK Government’s zero carbon emissions plan

  • Date29 March 2021

A new national survey, conducted by Royal Holloway, has found that 64% of the British public strongly support the government’s large scale plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

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The Prime Minister recently unveiled The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution to meet net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2050.

The survey, with a response of more than 3,000 people, found that public support is increased substantially by the action policy due to consumer grants for electric vehicles, funding of electric public transport, planting of trees (45,000 hectares of trees per year) and wind power.

The survey also revealed that the Green Industrial Revolution plan saw a majority of support across political parties, being similarly popular amongst Conservative and Labour supporters.

The most popular part of the government’s policy programme are:

• Fourfold increase in wind power

• Sixfold increase in hydrogen power

• £787.5 million investment in nuclear power

• Banning internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035

• Grants for buying electric vehicles

• Funding electric public transport

• £30 million for greener energy in the air and maritime sector

• £1.5 billion funding for insulating homes and public buildings

• £300 million investment in carbon capture technologies

• Planting 45,000 hectares of trees per year

The research was conducted in December 2020 and used a conjoint experiment in order to identify the causal effect of policy features on the public’s support. This experimental design, originating in consumer research, is increasingly used by social scientists to understand individuals’ preferences for multidimensional policy problems.

This technique allowed academics to provide answers to two key questions – i) what is the causal effect of specific features of the Green Industrial Revolution (e.g. grants for buying electric vehicles, levels of investment in nuclear power, etc.) for preferred policy choice and ii) what is the public’s support, opposition, and indifference for specific policy combinations embedded within the Green Industrial Revolution plan?

However, all forms of investment in air and sea vehicles and nuclear power failed to have any meaningful support from the public.

Overall, the most popular version of the policy was supported by 64% of the public, with 15% opposing and 22% expressing indifference.

In comparison, the baseline policy of no environmental action and investment is widely opposed by the public, with only 20% of the public support taking no environmental action, 41% opposing and 40% being indifferent.

Dr Liam F. Beiser-McGrath, Lecturer in Politics and Director of the Politics of the Environment and Climate Change (PECC) Lab at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “The results of the national survey provides us with strong evidence that the public is broadly in favour of engaging in a large scale green industrial revolution, and suggests that the government taking no action is incredibly unpopular with the public.

“The results suggest that certain policy instruments included in the plan are crucial for winning public backing, such as consumer grants for electric vehicles and funding of electric public transport, and thus should remain the cornerstones of the policy as it evolves.

“More broadly, the results suggest a significant public appetite for large-scale environmental policy.”

The questions from the survey are part of a larger survey that examines public opinion toward climate change, the results of which will form peer-reviewed journal papers and/or future PECC Lab policy briefs.

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