Just 11% of Britons think COP28 will result in significant action on climate change

Jemma ConnerResearch Manager
November 30, 2023, 12:09 PM GMT+0

Britons are split on whether climate change spending should be a priority at the current time

The 28th United Nations Climate Change conference from 30 November - 12 December in Dubai – dubbed COP28 – will see world leaders gather to discuss how the world is tackling rising temperatures as we come to the close of the hottest year on record.

The latest YouGov polling presents a pessimistic public view of what the climate change conference can achieve. Just one in nine (11%) think the event will result in significant action.

Three quarters of Britons (75%) say it is unlikely that COP28 will result in any serious action. This represents a growth in pessimism around these conferences - when YouGov asked the same question about COP27 in Egypt 12 months ago, 70% thought action was unlikely. Going back further, to COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, 68% felt that the conference was unlikely to result in significant action.

Very few are paying attention to the conference, with 81% saying they have heard little or nothing about it just two days prior to the start of the conference.

When asked about what role different developments can have when it comes to addressing climate change, meetings of international leaders like COP28 are seen as being the least influential of all the measures tested. While 79% say the development of cleaner and more environmentally friendly technologies can play a “very big” or “significant” role in tackling climate change – the most important according to the public – just half (52%) say the same of conferences like COP28.

Measures such as companies promoting more environmentally friendly practices (72%), trade deals that require countries to cut emissions (68%), pressure from the public for governments to take action (62%) and United Nations action (61%) are all likewise seen to have a bigger role than conferences such as COP28.

Despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm for COP28, Britons remain worried about climate change (63% are currently very or fairly worried), but are cautiously optimistic that there is still time to tackle the issue, with 60% saying that we can still avoid the worst effects if we make drastic changes.

However, this does not translate into public support for government spending on climate change. In fact, the British public are split when it comes to whether climate change spending should be prioritised – 36% say spending on climate change should be a priority now, and should be increased, even if this means cuts elsewhere, while 38% say that there are other priorities for government spending that are more urgent than climate change.

While Rishi Sunak may have hoped to see his diluting of some net zero policies in September would shift the dial on whether people see climate change spending as a priority, the figures do not appear to bear this out. The results are largely similar to our previous survey in January, when 37% saw climate change as the priority but 34% wanted to priorities other spending areas.

Results for this measure vary drastically according to political persuasion – 2019 Conservative voters are far more likely to say that there are other priorities right now (59%), while almost the same proportion (57%) of Labour voters feel that climate change spending should be seen as a priority at the current time and should be increased.

See the full results here

Photo: Getty