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Majority of voters back radical cutting of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, poll reveals

Exclusive: Six out of 10 people back drive to slash emissions over next three decades

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Saturday 11 May 2019 21:05 BST
Climate expert debunks Britain's claim to be world leader on green issues

A majority of voters would support radical action to slash greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050 at a cost of tens of billions of pounds, a new poll has found.

The public has thrown its weight overwhelmingly behind calls by the government’s independent climate change advisers to make a legally binding commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

The exclusive survey by BMG Research found 59 per cent of voters would support such action, with only 8 per cent opposing it and 34 per cent who had no view.

Enthusiasm for tougher measures comes as climate change soared up the agenda, with international focus on school strikes inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London and Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary on climate change.

The findings ramp up pressure on the government to accept recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), its independent advisers, who said the UK needed to do more to become a global leader in the climate fight.

The committee recommended scrapping the outdated emissions target, which aimed to slash damaging greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent of what they were in 1990.

To reach net zero by 2050, millions of people will have to switch to low-carbon heating, eat less meat, fly less and dispose of waste more efficiently.

Necessary overall investment could run to tens of billions each year, or 1 to 2 per cent of GDP, the report said.

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Energy secretary Greg Clark hailed the report as a “comprehensive and groundbreaking” document, and vowed to respond “in a timeframe which reflects the urgency of the issue”.

But the government faces increased pressure to act, after MPs overwhelmingly backed Commons bid by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to declare a “climate emergency”.

The new survey, conducted between 7 and 10 May, found the public was unimpressed by the government’s record on climate change.

Nearly half (46 per cent) either did not know or had no view on its performance, while 30 per cent disapproved of its actions.

Only 23 per cent of respondents gave a positive response when asked about the government’s record.

Despite widespread support for tougher action on climate change, nearly half of voters (48 per cent) took a dim view of civil disobedience committee by Extinction Rebellion.

Some 25 per cent supported the activists, who attracted praise for pushing climate change up the agenda by bringing London to a standstill with a wave of protests. The poll found 27 per cent had no view.

Extinction Rebellion is demanding an end to greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 – rather than 2050 – and accused the government of “moral and political failure” for refusing to declare a climate emergency.

Source note: BMG Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,541 GB adults online between 7 and 10 May. Data are weighted. BMG are members of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules

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