Concerns about climate change and the economy topped a poll as the areas the public are most worried about, in a YouGov poll commissioned by IEMA. Climate change ranked higher than crime, education and house prices as a key public concern, when asked during the recent fuel supply chain shortages.

Three weeks before the start of crucial talks at COP26 in Glasgow to tackle climate change, IEMA asked the public to select the categories that most concerned them, with 64% of recipients choosing the economy, followed by 60% climate change, then crime at 52% and fuel concerns at 50%. Education, unemployment and housing were less concerning to those who responded. This survey highlighted the differences between younger and older people, with 18-24 year old respondents rating worries about climate change (62%) higher than the economy (49%).

Only a quarter (28%) of those asked thought that the effects of climate change were irreversible, with nearly half of the public (48%) revealing they thought there was still time to act in tackling climate change.

Nearly three quarters (73%) said that it was important to recognise the role of experts in tackling climate change, with the same number acknowledging the value of events such as the COP 26 talks next month. As sustainability and environmental experts, IEMA members play a crucial part in addressing climate change and are calling on the government to take urgent action to address the public’s concerns as the talks begin.

Sarah Mukherjee, CEO of IEMA said:

“Despite the economic turmoil in the last 18 months, this survey reveals the public are as concerned about climate change as they are the economy. We have an opportunity to put in place the policy measures and actions to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees and the time to act is now.

The public is rightly concerned about climate change and the government must do all it can to raise the ambition of world leaders at the Glasgow negotiations. We have a duty to protect our planet, communities and livelihoods from any further destruction and must take urgent action to reduce emissions.”

Respondents were also asked to select which one change they could make to their daily lives, that would make a significant positive impact to the environment. A quarter highlighted cutting waste to landfill, with 15% identifying reducing energy use at home and 11% buying or leasing an electric car. Finance-related changes such as choosing to invest in a greener pension (2%) or switching to a more ethical bank/building society (1%) ranked as low priorities, with 1 in 10 people not knowing what change they could make as a positive impact.