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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism and conservative modernisers, has today published a comprehensive new polling report showing that an overwhelming majority of Conservative voters support maintaining or strengthening all of the main EU environmental regulations after Brexit.

Despite a few high-profile conservatives being sceptical of environmental challenges and policies, Bright Blue’s report finds that a majority of Conservative voters are in fact concerned about – and support government action to deal with – the natural environment and manmade climate change.

Commenting, Lord Howard, Advisory Board member of Bright Blue’s Green conservatism project, said:

“Climate change is one of the biggest long-term threats to our environment and our economy. Conservative support and, crucially, Conservative insights are central to efforts to address this challenge in a cost-effective manner.

“I am greatly encouraged by Bright Blue’s new report that shows both deep and broad concern among Conservatives about the impacts of climate change. In particular, I was pleased to see over seventy per cent of Conservatives express pride in the Climate Change Act, which was passed by Parliament on a cross-party basis. This support for taking action on climate change is firmly within the Conservative tradition, which started with Margaret Thatcher’s speech to the UN in 1989.”

Commenting, Rebecca Pow MP, Advisory Board member of Bright Blue’s Green conservatism project, said:

“The findings of this report do not surprise me at all. I have found huge support amongst Conservatives from old too young for protecting our precious environment.

“In this Brexit world we should adopt wholesale the current EU environment legislation relating to areas including water, wildlife, habitats, beaches and climate change and tailor it to our particular needs, as time goes on.

“Conservatives have always cared for and been custodians of the environment but this report demonstrates we can be even bolder in our future approach to this area and I shall be working to encourage this endeavour.”

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Conservatives want a green Brexit. Although there are a handful of prominent Conservatives who are sceptical about environmental challenges and policies, the mainstream of Conservative voters, including most of those that voted to Leave, in fact do not support scaling back current EU environmental regulations. As Parliament debates the Great Repeal Bill, there is no mandate from Conservatives to dilute current environmental regulations.

“Most Conservatives do care about climate change and the natural environment. They support ambitious environmental policies, including closing Britain’s remaining coal-fired power stations to introducing new low-emission zones in air pollution hotspots. There is a clear mandate from its own voters for the Conservative Government to adopt a more ambitious, conservative agenda on the environment.”

The report reveals that:

1. Conservatives want to either maintain or strengthen the main current EU environmental regulations after Brexit.

Majorities of Conservatives supported maintaining or strengthening all the main EU environmental regulations after Brexit, including a majority of Conservatives that voted to Leave. The proportion of Conservatives that reported they want to strengthen or maintain certain regulations are as follows:

  • Protections for habitats and wildlife (93%)
  • Air pollution reduction targets (92%)
  • Household waste recycling targets (91%)
  • Renewable energy generation targets (85%)
  • Regulations to increase energy efficiency of household appliances (85%)
  • Restrictions on use of pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture (85%)
  • Fishing quotas (64%)
  • A ban on production of GM crops (63%).

Most Conservatives (61%) want to see payments to farmers, which currently support food production and farming practices that improve the environment, continue after Brexit.

2. A majority of Conservatives believe in manmade climate change. Most Conservatives (60%) accept the clear scientific consensus that manmade climate change is happening. In fact, accepting manmade climate change is the majority position of Conservatives regardless of socio-demographic characteristic.

3. Conservatives are very supportive of renewable energy.The most popular energy sources for electricity generation among Conservatives were all renewable, ahead of nuclear and ahead of fossil fuels. Even onshore wind, which the Government has sought to scale back, has a positive favorability rating among Conservatives and, if conditions around subsidy are met, their further development is supported (59%). Of all environmental issues, increasing renewable energy generation was most important for Conservatives (53% ranked it among their top three).

4. Conservatives support many policies that protect the environment, including targeted government regulation that is often thought controversial on the centre-right. Polling shows Conservatives support policies to phase out coal from electricity generation (66%), to mandate that all homes being sold meet a minimum energy performance standard (70%) and to tighten regulations on new diesel engines (74%).

5. Conservatives support policies to reduce air pollution, although only a minority are concerned about air pollution locally. Only two in five Conservatives are concerned about air pollution in their local area, although this becomes a majority in places such as London where the problem is particularly acute 56%. Conservatives support increasing the current EU air pollution reduction targets after Brexit (54%). They support several policies to combat air pollution including more low emission zones (57%), which Conservatives are generally more supportive of than voters from other parties.

6. Conservatives are proud of the UK’s international role on the environment. A clear majority of Conservatives (71%) are proud of the UK passing the world-leading Climate Change Act in 2008 to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Although, Remain-voting Conservatives (80%) were more likely than Leave-voting Conservatives (65%) to agree, most Conservative Leavers said they were proud. The most common reason for this, chosen by 39% of Conservatives, was that it enabled the UK to take advantage of the economic opportunities from new low-carbon industries.