New polling carried out by Opinium for climate communications charity, Hope for the Future, shows political parties and MPs could be missing a trick when it comes to winning over voters in London.
If there was a general election tomorrow, two-fifths of Londoners (42%) say that climate change would be one of the top priorities, if not the highest priority, for their vote. A further 30% say it would be important to how they vote, but below other issues. And yet, a fifth (20%) – the second highest proportion of people – answered “don’t know” when asked which party has the best policies on climate and the environment.
Of those who did make a choice when answering this question, the Green party was the clear frontrunner on climate policies with 27% of all adults. Labour was slightly ahead of the Conservatives with 19% versus 16%. This lead was more decisive when respondents were asked about party leaders, with twice as many saying a Labour government led by Keir Starmer (42%) would respond better to climate change compared to a Conservative government led by Boris Johnson (21%). That said, many are unconvinced or undecided, choosing either “neither” (21%) or “don’t know” (15%).
Since the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, climate change has overtaken the economy to become the second most pressing issue for the British public – behind only health/the NHS. Over a third of people in the UK (37%) say it is one of the top three biggest problems facing the country, rising from 33% in just two weeks. Comparing this with historical data, climate change has never been more important to people in the UK.
In addition, almost a third of respondents in London (30%) would like to meet with their MP for the first time to discuss taking further action on climate change. With more people in the capital (54%) than anywhere else in the UK saying they would have a more favourable opinion of their MP if they supported action on climate change, the data suggests this issue is ripe for voter engagement.
Sarah Jordan, Director of Hope for the Future said: “Although all political parties see opportunities in greener platforms, our research shows they are clearly behind the curve of public opinion. Some MPs are still operating under the wrong assumption that parts of the British public are uninterested in, if not hostile to, meaningful action on climate. But it’s not difficult to see that climate change is climbing to the top of voters’ priorities and that they’re looking to their MP and the government for leadership.”
Almost half of Londoners (48%) think the government should be doing more to address climate change. This relates to the fact that three times as many people in London say it will cost too much not to tackle climate change now and we should be prioritising it (59%) compared to those who believe it will cost too much to tackle now and we should be prioritising other things (22%).
Part of the reason for this desire to act sooner rather than later is that people are much more likely to see opportunities than threats in tackling climate change. Where four in ten people in London (39%) tend to think that tackling climate change will threaten jobs in their region, nearly half (49%) think it will create new jobs. Similarly, where four in ten (40%) tend to think it will shrink the local economy, just under a half (45%) think it will boost the local economy.
When asked about the top three green sectors that high quality jobs are most likely to come from in their region, the highest proportion of people in London say upgrading buildings to improve energy efficiency (36%), followed by building renewable energy infrastructure (29%), and installing and maintaining electric charging points (29%).
The survey also identifies a broad range of areas where local MPs and businesses can build on a willingness to take personal action to tackle climate change. Around half of people in London are likely to improve their home insulation (49%), switch to a renewable energy provider (49%) and replace their boiler with a cleaner alternative (45%). Almost two-fifths of people are likely to become vegetarian (37%) and a third say they are likely to become vegan (34%) – more than anywhere else in the UK.
Sarah Jordan added: “It’s really striking that people don’t know who has the best policies on climate change and it shows that political parties and MPs need to better communicate what they stand for on this issue. Importantly, they need to realise the benefits of a green transition for their region and support constituents in their own efforts to take personal action. Hope for the Future works to facilitate this sort of communication between constituents and their MPs.”
Concerned Bromley borough constituent, Chris Lawn (48) believes his local MP could take more action in the transition to net-zero, with opportunities for people to transition into or train in green jobs.
He said: “Climate change impacts all aspects of our everyday life and I believe it’s important that constituents ensure climate change is being discussed locally and in parliament, in the hope that we get better legislation. Climate change presents an opportunity to invest in new, greener skills. Education could be a huge part of that, upskilling workers to enable more people to go into climate-related industries.”