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UN survey of public opinion on climate change: the majority call for more action

Climate Action Now

A recent survey produced by the United Nations suggests that the younger generation view climate change as a global emergency and are actively looking at ways to take action.

The level of demand for green-focused businesses and green jobs has reached the highest level in the UK based on a global United Nations survey. Over 1.2 million young people participated in the “People’s Climate Vote”, a dedicated survey by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Oxford. The global survey was delivered on mobile gaming networks enabling it to incorporate harder-to-reach audiences and age groups.

In the survey, individuals were asked if they believed climate change was a global emergency and if they supported a selected number of key climate policies covering economy, energy, transport, food & farms, nature and the protection of people.

The results showed that 73% of UK based respondents wanted to see Government placing more priority on environmentally-focused employment, with over 80% viewing climate change as a global emergency, higher than the survey average of 64%.

Forest conservation, utilising renewable energy, adopting climate-friendly farming practices and investing more into green businesses were highlighted as the most popular climate action techniques. In the UK, younger age groups defined climate change as a global emergency, with 86% of respondents under the age of 18 declaring it like this.

The UNDP survey included a range of environmental policy measures that people could select as a preference. The most popular options in the UK were solar, wind and renewable power, followed by land and forest conservations and protecting our oceans. The least selected option was supporting plant-based diets, with only 43% choosing this as an important environmental measure.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner explained that the survey results indicated that climate action had the support of the young people worldwide, incorporating multiple nationalities, ages, gender and levels of education. More importantly, the survey highlighted how people expect policymakers to take action. Ranging from climate-friendly farming techniques to nature protection and investing in a green recovery, the survey puts the voice of the people at the top of the climate debate. Mr Steiner believes the results show ways in which we can progress forward with the support of the public, and the means to work together to tackle the climate challenge.

Professor Stephen Fisher of the University of Oxford believes the survey that was regarded as the biggest study of the public opinion on climate change, had shown that mobile gaming networks were highly effective in reaching out to people that are generally excluded from these studies. Professor Fisher explains that the survey generated valuable data on public opinion that has never been produced before. The results show that the recognition of climate emergency is much higher than we previously thought and indicated that most expect a stronger and broader policy response.

Cassie Flynn, the strategic advisor on climate change at the UNDP responded to the survey, suggesting that people recognise they are living in a critical time in terms of climate change. The UN representative explains that people are genuinely concerned and the recent global events, such as the fires in California and Australia are clear evidence of the impacts climate change is having on our planet. People realise that we are in the midst of a climate crisis, and understand that decisive action and solutions are needed.

More people are demanding change to existing environmental policies and measures enforced. Alastair Fitter, an ecologist from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust suggests that the survey results indicate an increased demand for conservation. Mr Fitter explains that last year over 7,000 people objected to a proposed housing site intended to impact the Askham Bog, an ancient wetland area that represents the formation of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The development threatened to reduce water levels and as a consequence of opposition, the plans were refused.

This case study reflects the changing attitude towards our environment, conservation and climate change, yet more action is needed, and further people power to drive real change. 

Climate change has become a major focus for many, particularly to the millions of people that have been directly impacted by the effects of climate change. The shift in attitudes towards climate action is driving businesses to rethink their strategies and is encouraging the development of more opportunities in the green industry.

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