With 2 months to go until COP26, just a quarter of Britons have heard much about it

Jemma ConnerSenior Research Executive
September 09, 2021, 3:56 PM UTC

Only one in five think the conference will result in significant action to tackle climate change

November’s COP26 will be the 26th instalment of an annual global climate summit, which brings together world leaders to reach an agreement on how every country can work together to tackle climate change. This year the UK is acting as President, with the conference due to take place in Glasgow.

Despite the UK's status as the host nation, new YouGov polling finds that awareness of the conference amongst British adults is very low just two months before it is due to start. A quarter (23%) have heard a great deal or fair amount about the conference, with seven in ten saying they have heard little (32%) or nothing at all (40%). Possibly unsurprisingly given where the conference is being held, awareness amongst Scots is much higher, with 53% having heard a great deal or fair amount about it.

The public are also divided over how successful they think the conference will be. A third of Britons (32%) see the conference as an opportunity to bring together key players to put in place practical plans to effectively tackle climate change. However, 36% say that while the conference brings attention to the issue of climate change, it does little to actually tackle the issue in practical terms.

Although the majority of the public think that governments (83%), businesses (82%) and international organisations (81%) can have a big impact on tackling climate change, they are far less convinced that bringing these decision-makers and stakeholders will achieve anything meaningful - almost two-thirds (63%) of Brits think the conference is unlikely to result in any significant action being taken.

Britons tend to think government spending should now prioritise climate change, and think we can still avert climate disaster if we act drastically

Our latest polling finds that 68% of Britons are worried about climate change and its effects today, although a quarter say they are not currently worried (25%). Labour voters are much more likely to be worried about climate change (85%) than Conservative (54%).

A significant proportion of the population (43%) feel that climate change needs to be treated as a priority in terms of government spending now, even if this means cuts to other areas of spending. Three in ten (31%) think other areas should be a higher priority. Again there is a significant political divide on this – 60% of Labour voters say spending on climate change should be significantly increased, twice as high as among Conservative voters (32%).

The public are generally optimistic that action could be taken to effectively reduce the impact of climate change – two-thirds (66%) say that the worst effects of climate change can still be avoided, but only if drastic steps are taken now. A further 9% think that the steps currently being taken are sufficient, although 14% think it is too late to avoid the worst effects.

Younger Britons are the most optimistic that there is still time to fix things: three quarters (73%) of 18-24 year olds think the effects of climate change can be mitigated if drastic action is taken now, with just 7% thinking it is too late. Just 2% of this group think the steps currently being taken are sufficient, compared to 14% of respondents aged 65 and over. This older group are also the most pessimistic, with 16% saying it is too late to take action on climate change. 

See full results here