‘UK public are sceptical net zero will be achieved by 2050’

A new survey reveals 58% of the public believe it is unlikely that the target will be achieved by the deadline

Big Zero Report 2022

The UK public are sceptical net zero will be achieved by 2050.

That’s the suggestion made in a new report from think tank Bright Blue, which surveyed 3,002 UK adults about the 2050 goal – 58% of the public believe it is unlikely that the target will be achieved by the deadline.

In terms of who the public think are primarily responsible for ensuring the goal can be reached, 82% of the public assign national governments a high degree of responsibility, while the same proportion say businesses must be held to account.

Similarly, 78% say local governments have a vital role to play and 74% think members of the public themselves have a high degree of responsibility.

Despite a tenth of people still thinking individuals will not have to make any changes themselves, the majority disagree – 63% expect they will need to recycle more, while 53% think they will have to install better home insulation.

Around 52% say it will be necessary to reduce air travel, the same amount that believe buying and driving an electric car would help – eating less meat is the least supported behaviour change, at 34%.

There are high levels of support for a range of government policies for achieving net zero – two-thirds of those questioned say firms that work for government to must assess and report on their carbon footprint, 59% say the government should provide tax breaks for businesses which have cut emissions and 52% say leaders should introduce a carbon tax.

Just more than half suggest taxing investment in fossil fuels would be an effective method of driving change, with 50% backing the establishment of a new emissions trading scheme for businesses and 49% supporting the installation of smart meters in all homes and businesses.

Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, said: “The changes that need to be made by individuals, businesses and government to help achieve net zero are demanding and disruptive. The public recognises that the government, businesses and individuals themselves have a lot to contribute to help Britain achieve its climate change goals, and are receptive to a variety of policies and behavioural changes to help make it happen. However, if it means increased prices on home electricity and heating, the public are opposed to action.

“Ambitious, sometimes radical, action will be needed across economic sectors. The public will need to accept, and adapt to, significant changes in the goods and services they consume. Many are still unaware of and unprepared for the changes required, especially in the way they heat their homes, to ensure we can reach net zero by 2050. Government and businesses must do more to inform and prepare the public for the changes that need to happen, or they risk the public turning against necessary decarbonisation.”

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