Political opinion is currently divided, as are the issues that people are concerned about. There is definitely some cross-party agreement on the urgency of Climate Change – it was Conservative leader Theresa May who set into law the UK’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which has continued to be championed.
However, during focus groups in the Northern England seats Boris Johnson won in 2019 the concerns were not broad, global issues but the immediate and the local: jobs, family, local community. The wide-sweeping distaste for experts and politicians means ambitious climate strategies and change need to be carefully thought through so as to avoid alienating the public.
Nearly all the media’s climate coverage focuses on left-wing policies, most notably the US Democratic Green New Deal. Meanwhile, right-wing voters have heard very little about how climate action can improve their lives and wellbeing. A local focus and utilising community opinions could help this, often ordinary people from all walks of life can all agree on things the government should be doing.
Climate Assembly UK brings 100 UK citizens (representative of the country) together to discuss what climate policies they agree with. The end results showed people are willing to implement and support actions for climate reduction, even those who aren’t overly interested in the issue. For example, there was a strong consensus that government bailouts from COVID-19 shouldn’t go to high-carbon industries.
The assembly also highlighted support for greater local control for meeting targets. This has been done successfully in the US, where the Trump Administrations complete climate denialism led to many local communities, cities and states pledging to uphold commitments from the Paris Agreement. As the Climate Assembly UK proves, the public will support their climate action.