The environment debate is playing a major part in the upcoming general election but who can you trust?

Thursday, 28 November 20194 minute read

Here at Pure Planet we commissioned a survey to find out.

  • Only 4% of Brits — fewer than one in 25 — trust politicians to tell the truth about the state of the planet
  • Eight times as many people trust academics, and five times as many people trust campaign groups, according to our poll of 2,000 Brits

Pure Planet’s survey results show that fewer than one in 25 Brits trust politicians to tell the truth about the state of the environment — despite green issues being a priority in the election.

Ahead of a crunch climate debate on Channel 4 tonight (with most but not all political leaders attending) our survey found that elected officials have come second from bottom out of a list of 10 different groups, with only 4% of people trusting them to be honest about green issues such as climate change and pollution. Only celebrities are less trusted at 3%.

Our survey, of 2,000 people, was carried out by Opinium, and it revealed voters are more concerned about the environment ahead of the December 12 election. It ranks above the economy, education and immigration.

Campaign groups (21%) such as Extinction Rebellion — which brought cities around the world to a halt with a series of protests this summer — and Greenpeace are eight times more trusted than politicians, while individual activists (15%) such as teen Greta Thunberg are five times more trusted. And 13% said they’d trust their family and 12% their friends.

But more than one third (36%) of people said they don’t trust anybody on climate and pollution matters.

Londoners are the most likely to believe politicians with 9% of those in the nation’s capital saying they trust politicians to tell the truth — compared with just 1% of residents in Belfast, Manchester and Leeds.

And just 3% of people from Brighton — which includes the constituency of Britain’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas — said they trusted politicians to tell the truth.

45% support an outright ban on single-use plastics, which topped the list of most popular initiatives.

Four out of 10 called for increased investment in renewable energy, such as more wind and solar farms.

Being more transparent overpricing of energy (34%), burning less fossil fuels (33%), pollution reduction near schools and hospitals (29%), compulsory lessons for all school children (27%) and fines for energy inefficient commercial buildings all topped support for nationalising energy in Britain — only 23% think this is a good idea.

Here’s a helpful table from Carbon Brief which explains each of the political parties’ views — useful before tonight’s debate.

It’s clear from our study that the public is fed up with inaction and indifference from politicians when it comes to the current climate emergency. And the fact that a third of people trust no one on the climate change debate at all is deeply worrying.

At Pure Planet we believe Politicians have this moment to capture our imaginations with inspiring, galvanising climate and environmental policies. Never before has there been so much public interest in why we all need to make greener choices, with our energy, transport, food and the way we live. The scientists repeatedly tell us to deliver positive change by reducing our carbon impact, and fast.

We shared our findings with Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, to see what he thought. Here’s what he said:

“Given the lack of far-reaching political action over the climate emergency, it’s perhaps not surprising that such a small portion of the population trust politicians when it comes to tackling the crisis.”

“The climate is one of the top priorities and it will influence how most people vote. We need to see manifestos bursting at the seams with detailed and thought-through policies that set us on a path to decarbonisation. But before the election they need to be fully scrutinised — this should be in a national televised climate debate with all party leaders. Ultimately, trust is earned when action meets words.”

We agree.

The Data

Here’s the data in a bit more detail.

We asked the public: Who do you trust to tell you the truth about the state of our environment?

The figures from Pure Planet’s People and Power poll of 2,013 UK citizens was carried out by Opinium research, in November 2019.

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