More than half of Britons expect a positive long-term impact from the net-zero transition

The government's latest Public Attitudes Tracker shows that around nine in ten Brits are aware of the term 'net zero' and a majority expect the transition to have a positive impact on the UK economy over the next decade.

However, there are major concerns about the impact of the potential short-term costs associated with the transition. The survey of almost 4,000 adults, conducted between November 7 and December 11, 2023, shows that 37 percent of respondents expect the impact of the net zero transition on the UK economy to be 'negative' over the next one to two years, while 21 percent expect a positive impact and a slightly smaller proportion expect no immediate change.

However, over a ten-year period, 52 percent of people expect a net positive impact from the transition, while only 18 percent think the impact will be negative.

About one in five say they do not know what the impact will be in the short or long term.

The survey also found that a majority expect the short-term costs associated with the net zero transition to have a direct impact on household finances. For example, 69 percent of respondents claim that the transition will increase their regular living costs over the next two years – while only seven percent predict cheaper costs. Over the next decade or more, 48 percent of respondents believe their expenses will increase, while a quarter predict a lower cost of living.

This public perception runs counter to numerous economic analyses, which predict that the rollout of clean technologies and energy efficiency measures should reduce costs for households and deliver net economic benefits.

However, it is in line with government warnings that some climate policies that ministers have been trying to reverse could lead to higher costs for households.

The survey also shows that awareness of net zero has remained stable since the summer at around 89 percent, with the share of respondents claiming to know at least a “fair share” about the concept remaining stable at around 50 percent . Moreover, the number of respondents who say they know a lot increased from 13 to 15 percent.

Among subgroups, net zero awareness was relatively higher among people aged 45 years or older, among those with a university education, and among respondents living in rural areas.

A new question in the survey series that asked respondents to choose from a list of topics they would like more information on found that reducing energy consumption at home was seen as the most prominent knowledge gap, noted by half of respondents .

In addition, 40 percent of Brits said they would like more information to help them choose products that have less impact on the environment, while around a quarter wanted to know more about green financial products. Other areas highlighted included information on low-impact travel choices, mentioned by 15 percent of respondents, and jobs related to helping the environment, which one in ten referenced.

There was also widespread support for a range of green behaviours. The survey showed respondents a list of green behaviors and asked whether they already exhibited them in their daily lives. Ninety-eight percent claimed to have engaged in one or more of the behaviors shown.

Behaviors related to minimizing waste were most commonly practiced, with recycling household waste and minimizing food waste mentioned by more than three-quarters of respondents. A similar percentage said they minimized energy use at home, while about half of respondents said they thought about energy efficiency when purchasing products or appliances.

In terms of transport, around half chose to walk or cycle instead of using the car, while just over a third said they chose public transport instead of using the car.

There was also a strong belief in the potential of individual action to reduce climate change; 84 percent of respondents agreed that if everyone did their part, we could reduce the impact of climate change – and more than half strongly agreed.

Three-quarters also agreed that they could personally make changes that would help reduce climate change; 34 percent completely agreed.

However, the potential lack of action by others was seen as a discouraging factor for some, with one in three agreeing that it is not worth doing things if others are not doing the same – up five percent year on year .

Do you want to understand what is going on at the intersection of sustainability? View BusinessGreen Intelligence – the key information for professionals focused on Britain's green economy.

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