Climate emergency is bottom priority for Tory members in leadership contest, poll finds

Just 4 per cent of Tories put issue in their top three priorities for the next party leader

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 18 July 2022 09:13 BST
<p>Net zero is not a high priority </p>

Net zero is not a high priority

Taking action on the climate emergency is the bottom priority for Conservative members in the party's leadership contest, a poll has found.

Just 4 per cent of those surveyed by pollster YouGov said hitting the UK's net zero emissions target by 2050 was one of their top three priorities for the next prime minister.

The survey, commissioned by the Times found that winning a general election, cutting taxes, increasing defend spending and strengthening the UK's global standing were all more important to members.

Out of the 10 policy areas listed, reaching net zero was placed bottom.

The news comes as an "unprecedented" heatwave triggers red warnings and advance to remain inside across southern Britain, with temperatures expected to reach 40 degrees celsius.

While the YouGov survey suggests apathy to the climate emergency among the governing party faithful, previous research has suggested that this does not necessarily translate into antipathy.

The Independent last week reported a poll of members conducted by Opinium that only a small minority, 37 per cent, of Tory members think the UK government is "overreacting" with its climate policies.

22 per cent of Tory members believed the government had been underreacting while 30 per cent say it is getting the balance of action about right - an apparently endorsement of net zero.

That finding came despite a push from figures on the British right like ex Brexit party leader Nigel Farage and Tory backbencher Steve Baker to campaign against the policy.

Out of all the Tory leadership candidates only Rishi Sunak has been vocal in his support of the net zero target without reservation, and right-winger Kemi Badenoch has described it as "unilateral economic disarmament".

She and other conservatives argue that the UK can gain an advantage by not pulling its weight on climate targets.

Under net zero, the UK would have to produce no more carbon than it absorbs by 2050. There is a scientific consensus that this approach is required to avert catastrophic climate disaster, though some significant effects will still be felt.

Polling by Ipsos MORI conducted in October found widespread public support for both net zero in principle and for policies such as frequent flier levies and phasing out gas boilers.

Half (54 per cent) of UK voters think that the country should be reducing its carbon emissions to net zero sooner than 2050, with 83 per cent extremely, very or fairly worried about climate change.

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