What do Britons say they’d be willing to do to help climate change?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 31, 2021, 8:54 AM UTC

Few Britons are willing to take the toughest measures

While world leaders gather in Glasgow to discuss what governments can do to impact climate change, a YouGov survey last month showed that 53% of Britons think that action on climate change needs to take place at not only the government level but also the individual level.

That being the case, what lifestyle changes do Britons say they are willing to make for the sake of tackling climate change?

Topping the list is “create green space in your home e.g. growing plants in the garden, adding pot plants to the balcony/window sill”. Eight in ten Britons say they would be willing to do this to help address climate change, including 32% who say they are already doing so (although it is not clear how many of these plant lovers were specifically motivated by climate change).

Second on the list is only eating fruit and vegetables that are in season, which 66% of Britons would be willing to do (including 7% who already do so).

Other lifestyle changes most Britons would be willing to make or have already made are switching to a renewable energy provider (64%), never buying single-use plastic products (64%) and only eating food produced in the UK (56%).

Fewer Britons are wiling to make tougher lifestyle changes, however. Only 36% would be willing to give up their car and move to public transport (including 15% already living car-free), and just 32% would be ok with paying more for their flights in order to offset the environmental damage.

At the very bottom of the list is cutting out all meat and dairy, with just 17% of Britons saying they’d take a hit for Mother Earth in this way. Fully 70% of the population say they would be unwilling to do so.

Also particularly unpopular is never flying for leisure (23% would be willing/are already doing, vs 51% unwilling) and only buying second hand clothes (30% willing/doing vs 49% unwilling).

The results show men are noticeably less likely than women to say they would be willing to change the way they eat for the sake of climate change. The biggest difference comes on limiting the amount meat and dairy eaten to 2-3 meals a week: 58% of women say they are willing to do this or have already done so, compared to 40% of men.

One key factor in people’s own willingness to make lifestyle changes could be the belief that most other people would not be willing to do so, rendering their own individual efforts meaningless.

Unsurprisingly, Britons are more pessimistic about the prospects other people would be willing to take big steps on climate change.

They are most likely to believe most others would be willing to create green space at home (74%), matching the commitment Britons are themselves most willing to make.

The only other thing most Britons think their fellow countrymen are willing to do is switch to a renewable energy provider (54%).

Britons are least likely to think most of the public are willing to give up flying for leisure (8%) and cutting out meat and dairy from their diet (10%).

See the full results