Should the UK still reduce its carbon output if other nations aren’t bothering?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 11, 2021, 10:16 AM UTC

Two-thirds think we should cut our carbon regardless of others

World leaders are gearing up to meet in Glasgow for the COP-26 summit on climate change, however, there will be notable absences. President Xi Jinping of China has yet to announce whether he will attend the summit. His attendance could prove pivotal if the summit hopes to make major progress, given China is the world’s biggest producer of CO2 emissions. Elsewhere the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has confirmed he will not be there, also concerning given Russia’s place among the top-10 carbon producers.

Recent years have also seen the USA withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords under Donald Trump, although they have since been readmitted under Joe Biden. Nevertheless, a future Republican victory could see America reduce its commitment to combat climate change once again.

This raises the question: what should we do in a world where other key countries aren’t pulling their weight on climate change? Would it be worth Britain still trying to cut carbon by itself?

The public certainly thinks so. Some 66% of Britons say that the UK should try as hard as possible to reduce its carbon emissions by as much as possible even if other industrialised nations do not.

This compares to only one in five people think that the UK should only try as hard to reduce its carbon emissions as other industrialised nations are trying (21%). A mere 3% think the UK should not try to reduce its emissions at all. 

Among voters, a majority across both parties agree the UK should make efforts to reduce its emissions regardless of what other nations do. Conservatives are less likely to do so than other voters, however, at 57%, while almost a third (32%) think the UK should only match the efforts of other industrialised nations. In comparison, some eight in ten Labour voters think the UK should aim to cut emissions as much as possible, while 12% think we should only do as much as other nations are.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons who say they are not worried about climate change tend to think we should only do as much to cut our emissions as other nations do (44%). Some 33% of those not worried about the climate think we should cut carbon as much as we can regardless. One in ten of this group (10%) believe the UK should not try to cut its emissions.

In comparison, 83% of those worried about climate change think the UK should try as hard as possible to reduce its carbon emissions by as much as possible.

See full results here