Conservative Party members broadly support net-zero and want next PM to focus on insulation and renewables, surveys find

The next Party leader will be in place by early September, following Boris Johnson's resignation

The first of these surveys was conducted by consultancy Public First and think-tank Onward, polling more than 6,500 adults based in the UK earlier this month. Those polled were either Conservative voters or those classed as ‘undecided’ voters.

The results have been published today (29 July), revealing that, despite the culture war around the cost of the low-carbon transition within the Conservative Party and the general perception that neither Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss see climate action as a priority area for Party members in 2022, net-zero could be a make-or-break voting issue.

A quarter of the Conservative voters to have responded to the survey said they would not vote for the Party if it removed the UK’s flagship legal commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Some of the leadership candidates originally stated plans to make this change, including Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman. Truss and Sunak have now both stated that they would keep the long-term commitment in place, but opinions differ on whether they would close the ambition and action gap.

Among those classed as ‘undecided’ voters who would consider ticking the Tory box at the next general election, 51% said they would be more likely to vote for the Party if the new leader kept the existing focus on net-zero. In contrast, just 26% said a rollback of net-zero ambitions would make them more likely to vote Conservative.

Interestingly, the results showed that the highest support for net-zero in seats held by Tory MPs is present in areas where these MPs have smaller majorities. Among the top tenth of Conservative seats for net zero support, the average majority was 13%. Across all seats, Tory MPs have an average majority of 31%.

In short, Onward believes that the Party is underestimating the importance that its members – and those who may consider membership –  place on the low-carbon transition and climate action. This could impact its success at the next general election.

A low-carbon response to the energy price crisis

Another poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), had its results published on Thursday (28 July). It sought to measure support among Conservative Party members for low-carbon responses to the energy price crisis.

Of the 829 people polled, 85% said they would support more Government interventions to help homeowners and landlords improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Home energy efficiency is one of the areas in which the UK Government’s own climate advisors have recorded the lowest levels of positive policy impact to date.

Sunak stated in the BBC’s TV debate on Monday night that he would provide more financial support for home energy efficiency. He provided little detail as to how. Moreover, Truss pointed out that it was under his tenure as Chancellor that the £1bn Green Homes Grant failed with less than 10% of its budget allocated. Government sources have said that the scheme was hastily designed, leaving little time for industry consultation. The result was a lack of skilled tradespeople to carry out the valid improvement works. Overall, the Conservative Government has a poor track record with delivering lasting and large-scale schemes in this space, and the Energy Security Strategy and subsequent Bill introduced this year have been described as further missed opportunities.

Additionally, 85% of those polled also backed stronger environmental standards for new homes, indicating that the Party’s decision to push the new Future Homes Standard date back from 2023 to 2025 may have been unpopular with its members.

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, who is supporting the ECIU’s work, said: “The insulation industry is ready to step up. Politicians need to do their bit now…. “The £17bn package to help bill payers this year is much needed but as has been pointed out, what do we do next year when gas will still be expensive?

“Insulation is the only practical way forwards and we need to get on with it.”

On energy generation, 71% of those polled wanted to see more Tory support for wind energy – both onshore and offshore. Similarly, 73% wanted more support for solar energy.

The Energy Security Strategy replicated the Conservatives’ continued prioritization of offshore wind over onshore and solar, on the grounds that onshore arrays can be larger and may cause less disruption in terms of land use and impacts on local homes. It increased the UK’s 2030 offshore wind capacity target from 40GW to 50GW but contained no new targets for scaling onshore wind or solar. The Strategy also assumed that Party members would be in favour of expanding nuclear and extending North Sea oil and gas production.

Comments (3)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    It might be a good idea to seek the opinion of the scientific community in general, there are all the professional bodies, ready I am sure, to assist in such a matter.
    I rather doubt that the general member of the public at large knows a great deal about the technology, even close family members!!
    Richard Phillips

  2. David Dundas says:

    Improving the insulation is a “no-brainer” to anyone, as we must save energy, but we must also accelerate the conversion of all energy to be fossil carbon free, or green by 2050. In parallel to making our energy green, we must pay attention to the distribution of green energy which at present is not attracting sufficient Government attention.

    I understand that there are renewable electricity projects under contruction that may have to wait up to 5 years to be connected to the grid which is creaking under the new load from electric charging facilities and other new demands for electric power. When you consider that most of the UK’s primary energy will have to be delivered as green electricity by 2050, with the rest from ground source heat pumps, and our total primary energy demand is presently around 2,000 TWh, with electricity of all colours less than 20% of that, our National Grid has a lot of urgent infrastructure improvements to make over the next 28 years to 2050.

    We may have lots of new electri after 2050c charging points but where are the hydrogen filling stations to power buses, HGVs and cars that can’t have a home charging point?

    Whoever becomes our new Prime Minister needs to pay more attention to the existential threat of a runaway global warming; the hustings are a good place to ask the 2 candidates.

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    Again, it must be emphasized that renewable energy is NOT at our behest. The sun shineth not at night, nor does the wind always blow. Indeed, only last August, wind power dropped to near zero for over a week.
    The only “green” power source entirely under our control is nuclear.
    Let us hope the fusion becomes a viable energy source, but I suspect that it will be expensive, and not soon!.
    Tough, but true!
    Richard Phillips

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