Ministers must tackle the climate crisis with the same urgency as at the start of the Covid pandemic, according to extensive research which has also revealed broad support for nationalization and skepticism about the role of the private sector.
The Net Zero Diaries, a project run by consultancy firm Britain Thinks to examine changing attitudes towards the pursuit of a net zero emissions target, has found support for the government’s tough tactics, even among those who said they had little commitment to environmental issues. .
“When the government wanted to be proactive in reducing Covid deaths … it took a proactive and committed attitude [approach]. Who paid for it? The government, ”observed a research participant.
Boris Johnson and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng were reportedly motivated by the pandemic to take a more radical approach towards net zero. A source close to the prime minister said the two had reflected on the damage catastrophic events could cause to the economy and used those arguments to advocate for better guarantees against weather events.
The focus group project involved 40 people who kept journals on current events and their daily climate encounters, and listened to a range of experts from all political backgrounds. The research was commissioned by energy company Ovo, Citizens Advice, WWF and Lancaster University.
He found some sympathy with the goals of direct action groups such as Insulate Britain, but a widespread belief that civil disobedience would not work as a tactic.
Ahead of Cop26 next week, the project also found that there was cynicism about what the Glasgow summit will bring and concerns about how much shows it will produce. Several respondents suggested that there was an irony in bringing together leaders from different corners of the world as many large conferences were successfully held online during the pandemic.
Columnists regularly returned to the idea of coordinated national action and saw nationalization as the easiest way to achieve it. Labor in particular has faced controversy over Keir Starmer’s reluctance to support a previous pledge to nationalize energy companies.
“I like the idea of this personally, although I know there were a lot of issues with the nationalized businesses that we once had,” said one participant.
Participants were asked to review the most recent manifestos from Britain’s four main political parties, with the majority choosing the Scottish National Party as the most attractive, citing its focus on national business and the deadlines that seemed achievable.
The Green Party was the second most popular, with Labor and Tories at the bottom amid criticism of “platitudes” such as pledges to plant trees and a distrust of nuclear power.
Participants said they did not trust the private sector to drive the net zero transition – a key part of the government’s strategy, designed to encourage companies to shift their research and development towards cheaper green solutions.
Despite speeches from speakers who said that innovation in the private sector was crucial and that change could be driven by the free market, participants said they strongly disagreed and supported that companies would always maximize their profits. Instead, participants said, the regulations should be much stricter and penalties should be applied to companies that do not wish to comply.
Yet there was a strong reluctance towards those individuals who bore the brunt of the costs, failing the belief that big business should be the first call for higher taxation.
There were also concerns that the less well off – or those in precarious jobs – needed help. “Unless there is a good retraining to send these people into green jobs, they are probably headed for permanent unemployment, as Yorkshire coal miners did in the 1980s. A generation of people who do not work, poverty, ”said one participant.
Most said they were reluctant to change their diet and pointed to the high costs of changing cars or providing energy. “We are naturally meat eaters and changing that is not practical,” said one. “I keep wanting to trade in our Kia Sportage diesel for an electric vehicle but the costs are surprisingly high and it would cost over £ 40,000 to change,” said another. “Who can afford it? “
One reporter said he wanted the government to install energy efficient solar panels and boilers free of charge “if it is serious about becoming more energy efficient.”
Participants were skeptical of campaigns that sought to highlight the ‘racist’ aspects of the climate crisis and the effects on the developing world, as well as arguments on intergenerational equity, and said their views were further shaped by current inequalities, citing the need to protect poorer citizens from fuel poverty and retrain people in green industries.
Participants will continue to keep their journals for another two months and report back after the Cop26 summit.