Young people are often referred to as the “Green Generation” – millennials and teens who advocate for climate action and environmental values, often with well-targeted research at older generations who have failed to prevent a climate catastrophe.
However, it is their baby boomer parents and grandparents who are most likely to act in support of ecological issues, according to a national survey.
About half of people 55 and older say they shop locally, buy fewer clothes that last longer, and try to avoid single-use plastics. Only about a quarter of people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they do the same. And only 16% of people ages 18 to 34 buy seasonal products, compared to 35% of people 55 and older.
The Opinium survey asked 2,000 people about their green attitudes. It shows that while a large proportion (78%) believe that they have personal responsibility for dealing with the climate crisis, a large proportion are not prepared to make sacrifices.
While some say they want to eat less meat, avoid fast fashion, or ride a bike instead of driving, few manage to achieve their goals, according to the survey.
Last week, Boris Johnson outlined several measures to create a “green industrial revolution,” including a ban on the sale of diesel and gasoline cars by 2030. However, there appears to be little support for new measures. Only 11% supported the idea of a road tax that would charge motorists for the distances they drive, and only 14% would like to see an additional tax on diesel. A limit on how often people fly was supported by 17%.
Chris Venables, policy director of the Green Alliance, said that ministers should establish a clearer vision of environmental policy.
“The story of climate change so far is that we’ve done an amazing job and accomplished things like a 47% reduction in emissions by doing things that people haven’t really had to change, like cutting carbon.
“Now we are at a critical point where, if we want to go further, we must look at transport, housing and heating. So how do you design a policy in a way that people feel is fair and works for them? “
The survey was commissioned by Pure Planet, the renewable energy provider, as part of the People and Power annual report on green attitudes that it has published for four years.
It shows that support for a ban on single-use plastics appears to be waning: in 2018, 47% supported a ban, but that had dropped to 39% this year. Clean air zones around schools also received little support.
Steven Day, co-founder of Pure Planet, said that many young people believed they did not have the time or money to act sustainably.
“It’s comforting to see that when people have more time, maybe when children have grown up or are less busy with their careers, then they make more sustainable decisions,” he said.
“The will is there. People have told us that they want to live more sustainably than they currently are. But clearly, the challenge we face is how to harness people’s energy and intent, and channel it to the things that have the greatest impact. “
A separate study published last week by Climate scope showed that there was very little climate denialism left in the UK, but that support for action on climate change could weaken if people felt they were being ignored.
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