EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

16th May 2024

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

That is according to research published today by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), which surveyed more than 15,000 adults across the UK and seven EU member states.

It found that 69% are concerned about climate change and that 61% support the target of net zero, however, the poll also found that citizens are concerned about an emerging delivery deficit.

Just 31% of EU respondents, and 19% in the UK, believe their respective governments will reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while a huge majority think China will not achieve its stated climate goals.

People are also divided on whether their governments should lead on climate change if China is not doing enough, with 55% believing they should, and 45% opposed.

Interestingly, support for net zero is boosted by 11% among those most sceptical on climate when presented with information on how technology is enabling the transition, with a negative “doomer” message much less effective.

“People in the UK and Europe have lost faith in their governments’ ability to meet ambitious targets and fear being unfairly penalised by having to take on excessive costs and make substantial lifestyle changes,” the TBI states in a report.

“These are legitimate grievances, but they are being exploited by populists. Failing to change direction on climate, both politically and in terms of policy choices, risks a loss of support for the whole idea of climate-change action. That would be a disaster.”

Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal are the seven EU countries where the survey was carried out.

Climate leadership and finance for developing countries are considered important in tackling climate change, with support highest in Denmark on 68%, followed by Italy on 63%, with the UK sitting at 50%.

The report states that scepticism and apprehension on net zero can be overcome by good policy solutions, and by demonstrating that tech-enabled delivery of climate solutions is an under-used political tool.

It also explains how costs need to be fair, and recommends providing support for the poorest in society and targeting taxes at the worst emitters, in conjunction with policy “carrots” as opposed to “sticks”.

“The survey provides evidence of a point that is often underappreciated within political discussions on climate: demonstrating effective delivery, at home and abroad, is key to maintaining support,” the report states.

“The majority of the public do not need further messages about the harms of fossil fuels, nor the degree to which we are off track.

“Instead, they need to see evidence of delivery and trust that their government is getting on with it in a way that isn’t in conflict with wider economic and social goals.”

Image credit: Shutterstock


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