Majority of Britons say UK should pay for climate action in poor countries

Exclusive: Funding from rich countries is critical issue at Cop27 and poll shows many think UK has duty to provide it

A significant majority of people in the UK think the country has a responsibility to pay for climate action in poorer and vulnerable countries, an opinion poll shows.

The issue of rich, polluting countries providing substantial funding to developing countries is central to the UN’s Cop27 climate summit in Egypt. Experts have warned that, without the flow of many billions of dollars to help cut emissions and cope with increasingly severe environmental impacts, there will not be the trust needed for the combined global action required to beat the crisis.

The poll told those questioned that the UK’s total emissions over time are among the highest in the world, while poorer countries have produced very few emissions. The results showed 49% of people said the UK did have a responsibility to provide climate funding, with 31% saying the UK did not and 20% saying they did not know.

The results were similar for Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem voters. However, people aged 18-34 showed much stronger support for climate payments to vulnerable countries, with 65% in favour, than those aged 65-74, of whom only 37% were in favour. The Guardian revealed last week that the UK, along with the US and Australia, had not provided their “fair share” of climate finance.

A separate poll across all G7 countries found 65% of people agreed that richer countries should pay more of the costs of climate action because they were historically responsible for more damage, with 11% disagreeing.

The new poll was conducted by Omnisis for the Guardian on Friday, near the midpoint of Cop27. A significant majority of people said acting to stop the climate emergency would be good for the UK economy: 48% compared with 38% saying it would be bad for the economy. People of all ages and every political party agreed climate action would benefit the economy.

However, most people (53%) did not think Cop27 would speed up action on the climate crisis. Only 29% of people said it would.

The poll also found fewer people (34%) supported a halt on new oil and gas developments in the UK than were opposed it (41%). There was a split by political view and age, with Tory and older voters clearly opposing a ban, while Labour and younger voters supporting one. The Conservative government has been criticised for offering new oil and gas exploration licences.

Only 24% of the public said Rishi Sunak was showing leadership on the climate crisis, with 47% saying he was not. The UK prime minister initially said he would not attend Cop27 but later changed his mind, telling delegates at the summit it was “morally right” that Britain honoured its climate commitments.

The public is evenly split on whether a new coalmine should be approved in Cumbria, with 35% in favour and 36% against. A decision was due before Cop27 but has been postponed for a second time.

The public were also split on whether burning wood in UK power stations should be banned: 39% said yes and 38% no. The Drax plant in North Yorkshire receives billions of pounds in taxpayer subsidies to generate electricity from wood, which is mostly imported.

In all questions, younger people were markedly more in favour of climate action than older people. About 20-25% of those polled answered “don’t know” to the questions.

The poll questioned about 1,200 people on 11 November and is weighted to a nationally representative population. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council.


Damian Carrington Environment editor

The GuardianTramp

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