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British public want government to prioritise environment over economy in recovery from COVID-19

11 June 2021

Maintaining the positive effects of the pandemic on the environment may be more urgent for the British public than the economic recovery from the crisis, according to a new report by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

NatCen asked over 2,000 people in Britain for their views on climate change and the environment in a pre-pandemic and post-lockdown survey, through its probability-based panel.

In the post-lockdown survey, held in July 2020, 72% of people said the government should aim to maintain the positive effects of the pandemic on the environment even if that means a slower economic recovery.

Conversely, 28% said the government should aim for a quicker economic recovery from the pandemic, even if that means reversing positive effects on the environment.

The research also found the public hold the government most responsible for addressing climate change, and that many do not feel the government is doing enough on the issue.

42% of people in Britain said government organisations were most responsible for addressing climate change, above business and industry (28%), energy suppliers (27%) and members of the public (22%).[2]

Around one in five people (18%) said the government was doing enough to address climate change on both the pre-pandemic and post-lockdown survey.

Before the pandemic, 62% of people said the government was not doing enough to address climate change.

This fell to 46% in July 2020, possibly in recognition of the challenges facing the government as a result of the pandemic.

Against a backdrop of significant expectation from government, NatCen’s report uncovers substantial public support for unauthorised climate protests.

In the pre-pandemic survey, around six in ten people said non-violent protests that obstruct public life (60%) or peaceful marches or sit-ins in unauthorised locations (63%) are at least “sometimes” acceptable to call for stronger action on climate change.

Around four in ten (41%) took the opposite view, that non-violent protests that obstruct public life and peaceful, unauthorised marches and sit-ins (37%) are “rarely” or “never” acceptable to call for stronger action on climate change.

Gillian Prior, Head of Surveys, Data and Analysis at the National Centre for Social Research said: “Our research suggests that the environment remains a clear priority for the public as we emerge from lockdown in the UK.

The public have told us they hold the government most responsible for addressing climate change, and that they are in principle willing to support disruptive protests that call for stronger action to tackle climate change.”

ENDS

For further information please contact:

Oliver Paynel, Media and Communications Officer, National Centre for Social Research

oliver.paynel@natcen.ac.uk

Direct: 0207 549 9550

Mobile: 07734 960 071

or Katie Crabb, Head of Marketing and Communications, National Centre for Social Research

katie.crabb@natcen.ac.uk

Direct: 0207 549 8504

Notes to editors

1. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), Britain’s largest independent social research organisation, aims to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research (www.natcen.ac.uk).

2. These findings are based on questions put to a nationally representative sample of the British public using the high-quality NatCen Panel. This random probability panel is formed of people recruited from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey which has been critical in gauging public opinion for nearly 40 years.

3. The first wave of fieldwork ran from 21st November to 11th December 2019 and 2429 Panel members took part. The second wave of fieldwork ran from 2nd July to 26th July 2020, shortly after the end of the first national lockdown, and 2413 Panel members took part. For both waves, Panel members were interviewed online and over the phone to ensure full coverage of the population and to optimize responses.

[2] Participants were able to assign more than one group as being most responsible for addressing climate change, meaning figures for this question do not sum to 100%.