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Bright Blue, the independent think tank and pressure group for liberal conservatism and conservative modernisers, has today published new polling revealing that the Conservative Party must champion environmental policies if they are to woo younger voters at the next election.

Bright Blue’s polling shows that climate change is the second highest issue younger people want senior politicians to discuss more, second only to health, and actually the top issue for 18- to 28-year-olds. When under 40s were asked to describe their perception of the Conservative Party’s current policies on climate change, the most commonly selected adjective was ‘weak’.

The polling reveals that the high-profile policies that are most popular among under 40s are environmental, including generating more electricity from renewables like wind and solar, banning the sale of all ivory products in the UK, and providing incentives for people to install insulation in their homes.

Commenting, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said:

“As a Party we need to step up and demonstrate we are responding to the concerns of a younger generation of voters. The Conservative party I know is optimistic and open, and it’s now vital we back that message up with clear policies that show we are talking to all parts of society.

“In recent months, we in the Scottish Conservatives have set out a series of environmental policies including incentives for electric car ownership, and a target to ensure 75% of waste is recycled by 2035. If conservatism is about anything it is about handing the next generation better opportunities than our own – and that includes a more sustainable environment.

“Young people have been overlooked for too long in the UK’s political debate, when now, more than ever, they deserve to be our focus. I commend Bright Blue for putting the spotlight on this issue.”

Commenting, Lord Howard, former leader of the Conservative Party, said:

“I hope the Government will take this polling seriously.

“The Conservatives have a proud record of environmental leadership dating from Margaret Thatcher, who was the first world leader to warn of the consequences of global warming.

“We need to continue the progress we have made and renew our leading contribution to the environmental challenges confronting our planet.“

George Freeman MP, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board & Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum:

“If the Conservative Party is to restore the confidence of the Millennial generation in mainstream politics and capitalism, it is essential that we commit to make sure markets work in a way which values the environment and our local and global ecosystem.

“This is about both policies and values. We need to show how exciting new technologies, innovations and ‘Clean-Tech’ start-ups in the green economy are transforming our world, and show our commitment to reform markets like energy, housing, and transport to support progressive, clean 21st century economics.

“But Conservatives also need to signal that the values of environmentalism – stewardship, responsibility, respect for our shared inheritance – are core to our movement.”

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior research fellow of Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative Party’s policies have a bad image among the under 40s in policy areas that are popular with young people. This should deeply concern Conservatives.

To rectify this, the party should adopt ambitious new policies that younger people would be proud of. Our polling suggests their top priority should be to develop and champion policies to tackle climate change, like generating more electricity from ever cheaper renewables like solar and wind.

“When leader of the opposition, David Cameron was right to recognise the potential for green policies to inspire a new generation of Conservative voters. It’s time for the party to reconnect with its long history of environmental stewardship. It might help them win over those younger voters who cost them their majority at the last general election and whose support they will need if they are to regain it in future.”

Bright Blue has been calling for:

‘Help to improve’ loans, underwritten by the government, that help households pay the upfront cost of home energyimprovements to their property

‘Help to improve’ ISAs, which incentivise households to save for home energy improvements

Competitive auctions for mature renewables like onshore wind and solar, which will award zero-subsidy fixed-price contracts for generating new low-carbon power

Government-backed infrastructure loan guarantees to reduce the cost of capital for new low-carbon power projects

The polling reveals that:

  1. The top three issues that under 40s feel senior politicians do not discuss enough and want to be discussed more are, in order, health, climate change and education. These issues are ahead of housing, immigration and crime. Climate change performs even better among the 18- to 28-year-olds, for whom it is the top issue.
  2. The top three policies that would make under 40s proud of voting for a party that adopted them are all environmental. A majority of under 40s would feel proud voting for a party that adopted the following seven high-profile policies: generating more electricity from renewables like wind and solar (83%), banning the sale of all ivory products in the UK (77%), providing incentives for people to install insulation in their homes (71%), strengthening equalities legislation to ban discrimination against transgender people (67%), requiring landlords to offer tenants longer contracts (56%), raising the income threshold above which all graduates have to start repaying their tuition fee loans (56%) and scrapping the rules that force internet companies to collect data on what their customers do online (54%).
  3. The top three adjectives that under 40s choose to describe Conservative climate change policies were all negative. When asked to pick up to three adjectives from a set list to describe how they perceive Conservative Party policies on climate change, the most commonly selected adjectives by under 40s are: weak (21% of under 40s choose it), inadequate (20%), and damaging (11%). Forty-five percent say they do not know. Even among those under 40s that did vote Conservative at the 2017 General Election, the most commonly chosen adjective is weak (13%).