The climate emergency is a bigger issue than Brexit for the nearly three-quarters of people in the UK, according to a new poll.
Of those surveyed, 71% underlined that they care more about climate change than the UK’s departure from the EU. The ComRes survey, commissioned by Christian Aid, also found that 61% believe the government is not doing enough to prioritise action on the climate.
Boris Johnson, in his first speech as prime minister on Wednesday briefly alluded to the environment, saying it was “leading the world in the battery technology that will help cut CO2 and tackle climate change and produce green jobs for the next generation.”
He may be further guided by the poll, that also found two-thirds (66%) of the 2,072 adults questioned said that climate change should be at the top of the agenda for his government.
Women were more likely to agree that the climate emergency should be a top priority for the Prime Minister – 71% compared to 62% of men.
The poll reveals that young people aged 18 to 34 were significantly more likely (60%) to say they care more about climate change than Brexit, compared to over-55s (43%).
Even in Wales (78%) and the East Midlands (74%), where support for Brexit has been strong, most people agreed that climate change was a more pressing issue.
The latest climate-focussed poll amplifies a survey in May where 54 % of adults agreed that climate-change threatened the extinction of humans as a species, compared to just a quarter who disagreed.
Laura Taylor, director of advocacy for Christian Aid, urged that a “rapid and radical shift” was needed to reduce carbon emissions in the UK but that global action was also necessary to ensure climate justice and ongoing support for the most vulnerable communities in the world.
“As Prime Minister Boris Johnson gets his feet under the table at Number 10, there is a large number of urgent priorities.
“However, it’s clear that beyond the present political turmoil, UK adults know there is a bigger crisis which is potentially catastrophic for the whole of humanity – particularly, some of the world’s poorest people, who are more vulnerable to the effects of this climate emergency.
“I hope the prime minister will hear the challenge from the majority of the UK public to do more to tackle this climate emergency. We need a rapid and radical shift to reduce emissions in the UK and we need global action for climate justice in which the most vulnerable communities are supported to not only survive but to thrive.”
Pressure is growing from a wide range of points for the government to act swiftly and decisively on the climate crisis, from the UN and EU to the Extinction Rebellion and other climate protest groups.
The new government has former Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom as Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as while former Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry has been appointed as President of COP26, the next UN climate summit.
Before his departure, Michael Gove attempted to reset the environmental agenda with speeches and policy documents but it remains to be seen whether this will have any medium-term impact on government strategy.
Laura Taylor said that the recent extreme heat in the UK demonstrates the urgency of action:
“These patterns are even more exacerbated in other parts of the world, where droughts, floods and storms are wreaking havoc, costing lives and seeing millions of pounds of damage each year.
“The pervasive impact of climate change on everyone – and particularly those in the communities in which Christian Aid works – means we cannot ignore it. The UK public is waking up to the devastating effects of the climate emergency – it’s time the UK government did so too.”
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