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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, is calling on the Government to commit to a ‘net zero greenhouse gas emissions target’ at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this week. Bright Blue has today published new polling revealing that there is strong support for a net zero target among the public, as well as strong and growing concern about climate change.

Bright Blue’s polling analysis, based on a survey by Opinium, shows that 64% of UK adults agree that the UK should aim to cut its carbon emissions to zero in the next few decades, so it doesn’t add any more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (64% of under 40s agree and 58% of Conservatives). The polling also found that a small majority of people (51%) are more concerned about climate change than they were ten years ago and that climate change is the (joint) second most popular long-term environmental priority that the government should focus on after plastic waste, with 34% putting it in their top three.

A ‘net zero’ target would entail the effective elimination of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases in the UK. Any remaining emissions would either be removed from the atmosphere by ‘carbon sinks’, such as trees, or offset by funding emissions reduction elsewhere in the world. Bright Blue will shortly be released a new research report that examines the underlying case for strengthening the UK’s Climate Change Act, including enshrining in law a net zero greenhouse gas emission target.

Commenting, Sam Hall, Head of Research at Bright Blue, said:

“This week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London presents a major opportunity for the UK Government to announce a new world-leading net zero target. By becoming the first major economy to formally adopt a net zero target, the UK Government could establish a powerful environmental legacy, while assuming leadership of the global campaign.

“A net zero target enjoys strong support among the public, including among Conservative voters. It would also provide a response to the growing concern of younger voters about climate change. Our research suggests that demonstrating international leadership on climate change would help the Government appeal to younger voters, without the risk of trading off existing Conservatives.”

Commenting, Simon Clarke MP, member of the Treasury Select Committee and of Bright Blue’s energy and environment advisory board, said:

“The U.K. has led international action on climate legislation this century, and it should not be under-estimated how much our Climate Change Act is respected around the world.  Now is the time to move the conversation forward again. The evidence of the dangers of climate change is becoming clearer with every year that goes by. The public understand this, care about this, and as Bright Blue’s polling shows, want action on this.

“With various forms of renewable energy becoming subsidy-free, the traditional debate about burdening consumers with additional costs to save our environment is increasingly redundant.  A viable pathway is emerging not just to curb our carbon emissions, but to achieve net zero status – and the Government should set out our commitment to seizing it.”

The polling reveals that:

  1. Around a half of people (51%) are more concerned about climate change than they were ten years ago. This concern is slightly higher among under 40s (57%) and slightly lower among Conservative voters (41%).

  2. Nearly two-thirds of people (64%) agree that weather across the world is becoming more extreme because of climate change caused by humans. A slightly lower proportion (54%) of Conservatives agree, but a higher proportion (72%) of under 40s agree.

  3. Climate change is the (joint) second most popular long-term environmental priority that the government should focus on (after plastics and level with air quality), with 34% putting it in their top three. For under 40s, climate change is the second most popular (37% put it in their top three).

  4. Clear majorities of people support UK leadership on tackling climate change: 63% agree the UK should be a global leader in tackling climate change (66% of under 40s and 56% of Conservatives); 64% agree the UK should aim to cut its carbon emissions to zero in the next few decades, so it doesn’t add any more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (64% of under 40s and 58% of Conservatives) ; and 61% agree that, by cutting its emissions, the UK will benefit economically by creating new low-carbon industries (65% of under 40s and 56% of Conservatives).

  5. A large majority of people (90%) believe the UK should cut its emissions at least as quickly as other countries, with 38% saying they should cut its emissions faster than other countries. Among Conservatives, 91% believe the UK should cut its emissions at least as quickly as other countries, with 30% saying they should cut them faster than other countries. Among under 40s, nearly half (47%) believe the UK should cut its emissions faster than other countries (the most popular answer).

  6. In terms of international climate change impacts, people want senior politicians to talk more about loss of natural environments like coral reefs and rainforests (44%), loss of world wildlife like polar bears (35%), and food shortages from more extreme weather destroying crops (34%). Conservative voters and under 40s have the same top three impacts (in the same order).