Conservative Party members broadly support net-zero and want next PM to focus on insulation and renewables, surveys find
Keeping strong commitments around the net-zero transition, backed up with more clarity on plans for energy efficiency and clean energy generation, will be key for the Conservative Party to win the next general election, major public surveys have revealed.
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.
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