A new poll by Opinium for the Hope for the Future charity shows that political parties and MPs could be missing a tip when it comes to winning voters in London.
If there were a general election tomorrow, two-fifths of Londoners (42%) say climate change would be a top priority, if not the top priority, for their vote. Another 30% say it would be important to the way they vote, but below other issues. And yet, a fifth (20%) – the second highest proportion of people – responded “don’t know” when asked which party had the best climate and environmental policies.
Among those who made a choice in answering this question, the Green party was clearly the leader in climate policies with 27% of all adults. Labor is slightly ahead of the Conservatives with 19% to 16%. This lead was more decisive when respondents were asked about party leaders, twice as likely to say that a Labor government led by Keir Starmer (42%) would respond better to climate change than a Tory government led by Boris Johnson (21%). That said, many are not convinced 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. More than a third of Britons (37%) say it is one of the top three problems facing the country, dropping from 33% in just two weeks. Comparing that with historical data, climate change has never been more important to the British.
In addition, almost a third of those polled in London (30%) would like to meet their MP for the first time to discuss further action on climate change. With more people in the capital (54%) than anywhere else in the UK saying they would have a more favorable opinion of their MP if they supported action on climate change, data suggests that this question is ripe for voter engagement.
Sarah Jordan, Director of Hope for the Future, said: “While all political parties see opportunities in greener platforms, our research shows that they are clearly lagging behind public opinion. Some MPs still operate on the mistaken assumption that parts of the British public are not interested, or even hostile, in meaningful climate action. But it’s not hard to see climate change climbing to the top of voters’ priorities and looking to their MP and the government for leadership.
Almost half of Londoners (48%) believe the government should do more to tackle climate change. This is linked to the fact that three times as many people in London say it will be too expensive not to tackle climate change now and that we should prioritize it (59%) over those who think it is. ‘It will be too expensive to tackle now and we should prioritize 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 the fight against climate change. While four in ten people in London (39%) tend to believe that tackling climate change will threaten jobs in their area, almost half (49%) believe it will create new jobs. Likewise, where four in ten (40%) tend to think it will reduce the local economy, just under half (45%) think it will boost the local economy.
When asked about the top three green sectors where high-quality jobs come from in their region, the highest proportion of people in London say they are modernizing buildings to improve energy efficiency (36%), followed by construction of ” renewable energy infrastructure (29%), and the installation and maintenance of electric charging stations (29%).
The survey also identifies a wide range of areas where local MPs and businesses can build on a willingness to take personal action to tackle climate change. About half of Londoners are likely to improve their home’s insulation (49%), switch to a renewable energy supplier (49%) and replace their boiler with a cleaner alternative (45%) . Almost two-fifths of people are likely to become vegetarians (37%) and one-third say they are likely to become vegans (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. Above all, they must realize the benefits of a green transition for their region and support voters in their own efforts to take personal action. Hope for the Future strives to facilitate this type of communication between voters and their MPs.
Worried, Bromley Borough voter Chris Lawn (48) thinks his local MP could take more action in the transition to net-zero, with opportunities for people to pass or train to green jobs.
He said: “Climate change has an impact on all aspects of our daily life and I think it is important for voters to ensure that climate change is discussed at the local level and in parliament, in the hope that we get better legislation. Climate change offers an opportunity to invest in new, greener skills. Education could be a big part of this, improving the skills of workers to enable more people to enter climate-related industries. “