A new ‘net zero index’ released by British Gas will track each year how UK families feel about the journey to net zero, their role in it, and readiness to make changes to their home and lifestyle.
The Index reveals that when it comes to net zero, there is widespread awareness but limited understanding. When net zero was explained, 71 per cent of the public agreed that it was the right thing to do. However, on average, people believe that the UK will reach net zero closer to 2075 rather than 2050.
According to the results, climate change is ranked as the fourth most important issue facing the country – with younger people more willing to act and more willing to pay for measures that cut household emissions. Climate change is considered more important by the public than immigration, taxation, housing or Brexit. But unsurprisingly, fears over the cost of living have risen to make this the dominant priority for the British public.
When asked what the government should prioritise to deal with the cost of energy bills, the top responses were to build more low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar farms (52 per cent) and to make people’s homes more sustainable by installing more insulation (46 per cent).
The research also showed concerns about the gaps in government policy to deliver on the net zero target, with over half (54 per cent) saying they were not confident that the Government would cut emissions sufficiently by 2050. In fact, one in five (19 per cent) respondents were so pessimistic they thought that the UK would never achieve net zero. More than half of respondents (51 per cent) said higher energy prices made them more likely to look at “installing energy efficiency products” in the next 12 months.
Positively, there was a recognition of the need for changes to be made at home, with more than three quarters (78 per cent) saying they were willing to make changes in their own homes to help tackle climate change. Among homeowners, almost half (48 per cent) said they were willing to install improved insulation in the next two years and 42 per cent said they would be willing to install solar panels.
Electric vehicles also saw some support from consumers with 35 per cent willing to install a home charger to power an EV – support was stronger in built up areas such as London.
The data shows that there is more uncertainty about low-carbon heating. When asked what they would replace their existing boiler with, 37 per cent said a similar gas or oil-fired boiler and only 14 per cent said they would choose a heat pump. The majority of responses (38 per cent) said they did not know what they would choose.
Despite the fact that one in five (20 per cent) believe that there is nothing the UK could do to stop climate change, the UK has made good progress in recent years to reduce emissions and turn to more renewable energy sources. 87 per cent of the public said they supported building more solar power, 84 per cent supported more offshore wind, and 81 per cent supported building more onshore wind. New nuclear was more controversial with 48 per cent support.
Andrew Middleton, managing director of British Gas Net Zero said: “We hope that this index will help to measure changing attitudes over time and understand how people are feeling about choices in the lead up to the net zero target, particularly in light of these difficult economic times. It highlights where there are some uncertainties – such as heat pumps and how to decarbonise heating – where we can focus the support we give to customers.
“Supporting our customers in lowering their emissions at home is at the forefront of our plans. We are committed to working with governments, regulators and legislators to ensure we have the right policies and frameworks in place to achieve net zero by 2050.
“Our engineers have installed over 8,000 electric car charging points, have installed over 700 heat pumps and are improving insulation and providing solar panels around the country each day. Focusing on the critical areas of power, heat, transport and the gas network, we hope to accelerate the journey to net zero.”