Profession shows no appetite for scaling back on carbon reduction targets

The next UK Government should take a stronger international leadership stance on climate change and energy issues, according to fresh poll results released today by IEMA.

In the lead up to the UK General Election, IEMA polled Members during this past week to explore the Environment & Sustainability Profession’s views on climate change and energy policies. The research found that 91% of IEMA Members agree that post-7th May, the next UK Government will need to work hard to strengthen its leadership and commitment on domestic and international climate change issues.

Further headline results from the poll, which gained 833 responses, include:

  • 92% of IEMA members agree with a call for the next Government to strengthen its commitment and investment in relation to future climate risks (e.g. in flood risk management and in broader climate change adaptation).
  • 66% say they do not believe that gas derived from hydraulic fracturing - or fracking – in the UK has a role to play as a “strategic transition fuel” in the nation’s future energy provision. Instead, over 72% of those said that the next Government should prioritise investment in energy conservation schemes. The respondents also showed overwhelming support for increased funding for a mix of renewable and alternative energy schemes in order to address any potential short- to medium-term energy gaps.
  • “Leading by example in carbon reduction” is recognised by almost six in ten (59%) of respondents as the top priority for UK international commitments

The results come less than two weeks after the three main party leaders signed a cross-party declaration to tackle climate change. However, when asked which party leader is the strongest leader of climate policies David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband gained a combined vote of less than one quarter of the total responses (24%). 51% of IEMA’s Environment & Sustainability Professionals said that they believe Natalie Bennett of the Green Party demonstrates the strongest leadership on climate change. A further fifth said they didn’t know who demonstrated the strongest leadership.

IEMA’s Lead on Climate Change Nick Blyth said today that: “collectively, these results demonstrate a professional urgency on climate change”.

Nick Blyth believes that the strength of feeling from the profession on these climate and energy issues reflects the need for continued ambitious political momentum: “There is an undoubted need and support for continuing strong domestic action and UK international commitments. IEMA members are making a strong call for renewed political climate leadership from the next UK Government. Recent pledges from the main party leaders are welcome signs of intent, but clearly professionals working on the receiving end of past Government policy are not fully convinced. IEMA will look to engage constructively with the next Government, working with our members to present critical evidence and experience from the front line climate change professionals.”

On the domestic front, it is clear that IEMA members are equally supportive of renewed climate leadership and some important policy gaps are highlighted in the survey results. Those polled show ambition to see the UK lead by example on its plans to halve 1990 emissions by 2027, with 83% saying that the UK’s current carbon targets were either suitably ambitious or under ambitious.

IEMA’s poll also addresses a widely held view that Government carbon reduction policies have over-focused on the very largest companies, neglecting the importance of action and policy drivers for wider businesses (SMEs and large companies). 63% believe there is a need for the next Government to rationalise the number of energy and carbon schemes affecting the very largest organisations. At the same time, over half (53%) recognise a case for more financial support to smaller businesses such as tax breaks or loans for implementing energy savings measures.