Most think UK government isn't doing enough on climate change

People surveyed felt environment should be behind cost of living, economy and health as government priority

Cooling towers at Uniper's coal-fired power station in Ratcliffe-on-Soar, England. Bloomberg
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The UK government is doing too little to tackle climate change, say nearly six in 10 people surveyed in a poll.

The survey was conducted for the aid agency Cafod before the Cop27 UN climate talks in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

It also found that almost half of those surveyed did not think the government was committed to its climate goals.

The poll found more than a third thought the UK was also not doing enough to support poorer countries in battling climate change — an issue that will be a key item at Cop27.

The government has legal targets to cut emissions to zero overall, known as net zero, by 2050 to end the UK’s contribution to global warming.

It hosted last year’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

But before this year’s talks, it has come under fire for actions including offering 100 new licences for North Sea oil and gas drilling.

The YouGov poll of 3,305 found that the environment and climate change were behind the cost of living, economy and health on the list of things to which people thought the government should give priority.

Sharm El Sheikh's preparations for Cop27 - in pictures

But 58 per cent thought the government had done too little to tackle climate change over the past year, compared to just 8 per cent who thought ministers had done too much, and 15 per cent who said they had done the right amount.

About 40 per cent of those quizzed who voted Conservative in 2019 thought the government had done too little in the past year, and in general, on climate change, compared to 14 per cent who thought they had done too much.

Questioned on the government’s target to achieve net zero by 2050 and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, 47 per cent said the government was not committed to the goal, while 19 per cent thought it was.

The poll also revealed that 37 per cent thought the UK was doing too little to support poorer countries tackle climate change, while 19 per cent thought it was doing about the right amount and 14 per cent thought it was doing too much.

Access limited for Cop27 climate activists — in pictures

“The reality of the climate crisis is already here," said Graham Gordon, Cafod’s head of public policy.

"In the UK, our summer saw 40ºC heat and even now in winter, we’ve had temperatures hit 20ºC.

But Mr Gordon said that elsewhere in the world, the consequences of climate change had been “deadly”.

“There is a devastating drought in East Africa leaving millions on the brink of famine, and deadly floods in Pakistan, which have wrecked communities and taken many lives," he said.

“It has become painfully clear the government’s knee-jerk reaction to pursue more fossil fuels will not only cause more devastation, but it’s against the public wishes, too.”

MPs accuse government of failing to lead on cutting carbon emissions

The government has been accused by MPs of failing to give an effective lead on cutting damaging greenhouse gas emissions, despite having set a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The House of Commons public accounts committee said “vague” guidelines and “fragmented” responsibilities meant less than half of all government departments were complying with mandatory reporting requirements on emission levels.

It said “inconsistent” reporting of data across the public sector made it difficult to compare performance and could undermine confidence in reported progress towards the 2050 target.

Climate change around the world - in pictures

Oversight of emissions reporting across Whitehall is split three ways, with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Treasury and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs all having a role.

As a result, the committee said, the guidance they issued to other departments was “too vague” and compliance was “low”, with some departments doing little to address the issue.

“Leadership and oversight of emissions measurement and reporting in central government is fragmented and ineffective,” it said.

“Despite the time and resources central government bodies are committing to measuring and reporting their emissions, we are not convinced that they, or the wider public sector, are making sufficient use of their emissions data to drive decision-making.

“We have seen little evidence that public bodies are using the data available to estimate the potential costs of decarbonising the sector, or to identify priorities and develop plans.”

Animals in danger of extinction due to climate change - in pictures

The committee said the government should follow the example of the private sector, where some companies are seeking to measure and report on the indirect emissions attributable to their operations, such as those from goods and services bought from external suppliers.

“Government promised to lead the way to national decarbonisation but isn’t even putting its own house in order," said the committee chairwoman, Dame Meg Hillier.

“A free-for-all on reporting veils progress or lack of it.

"Government needs to be clearer and must publish consistent standards for measuring and reporting emissions across the public sector so that it can be properly held to account.”

Updated: November 02, 2022, 12:01 AM