Net zero not viewed as among major factors driving up cost of living, new research suggests

New research suggests that net zero is not viewed as a major factor driving up taxes and cost of living, with factors including Brexit, Covid and Liz Truss’ time in office cited more frequently.

The data, sourced by Public First for centre-right think tank Onward, showed that, out of ten options given, net zero was the last to be blamed by the public (16 per cent) as a contributor to a higher cost of living. 

Compared to net zero, those polled suggested that increased global demand and price of energy (43 per cent), the cost of the conflict in Ukraine (41 per cent), Brexit and trade barriers with the EU (36 per cent), debt due to Covid-19 and lockdowns (34 per cent) were more significant driving factors. 

Very few of those polled considered net zero as a the reason for taxes going up. Net zero was the last reason for the public, and ninth among Conservative voters (24 per cent) — Brexit came tenth with 21 per cent. 

For Conservative voters, higher taxes were more likely to blamed on Covid-19 and lockdowns (51 per cent), the welfare state (36 per cent), British support for Ukraine (35 per cent), and mistakes by Liz Truss (32 per cent). 

When asked if they expected part of their taxes to go towards fighting climate change, +39 net of the public and +32 net of Conservative voters agreed.

Meanwhile, the research suggested 53 per cent of the public are willing to accept costs to tackle climate change, while 40 per cent are not.

However, focus group participants were overwhelmingly negative about the ULEZ expansion to Greater London, which they saw as an unjust tax on the poor disguised as an environmental policy.

In light of the research, Onward argues the government should not mistake scepticism against single unfair policies for opposition to environmental policy in general.

Onward’s new report entitled Hotting Up – How we get to net zero in a way that brings people with us comes after Rishi Sunak watered down his government’s approach to net zero last week.

The prime minister outlined that the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be moved back five years to 2035 and that the transition to heat pumps has also been delayed.

Sunak said Wednesday last week: “I’m confident that we can adopt a more pragmatic, proportionate and realistic approach to meeting that zero that eases the burdens on working people”.

Responding to Onward’s report Simon Clarke MP, former Levelling Up Secretary, said: “The public overwhelmingly supports net zero, and we Conservatives must lead efforts to tackle climate change. As Onward’s research shows, voters want to see Government action to build renewables, help people insulate homes and make electric vehicles more affordable. Delivering on these popular policies would show that our party is committed to tackling climate change, securing new clean industries, and protecting our planet for future generations.”

Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie MP added: “This Onward research shows Rishi was right to put families’ finances first when it comes to our net zero ambitions.

“Everybody wants to do their bit to help protect the environment and many are already doing so. But many also will also need help to upgrade their homes and switch to electric cars, not to be taxed and forced to change at great expense and worry when the technology or infrastructure is simply not there yet.

“It’s clear from this poll that Conservatives can lead on this pragmatic, ‘stepping stone approach’ to meet the target and they should continue to focus on real life net zero policies that help, not force, people to go green.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.