Poll shows failure of top-down environmentalism

08 November 2005 10:51:00


“As another expensive environmental conference gets under way in London, a new survey shows that the ‘top-down’ approach to environmental policy-making is not welcomed by Britons,” notes Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell.

“This poll shows that it is time,” he says, to “stop having environmental values imposed on us by central and local government—and by those who have hijacked both—and instead to give power to real grassroots environmentalism by protecting real property rights.”

The poll is the biggest poll on Britons’ attitudes towards the environment in over 10 years. Says Dan Lewis, co-author of the poll, “It’s my belief that there can be no serious discussion on the environment or energy issues [in Britain] without reference to these findings.”

‘The Independent’ newspaper reports on the poll that

…the politicians are running ahead of British public opinion, according to a new poll by Populus, for the Stockholm Network, which will make uncomfortable reading for campaigners

Nearly a third of the 1,003 adults polled—29 per cent—ranked climate change as less important than terrorism, Third World debt and diseases such as Aids.

Three out of five—60 per cent—said “the UK has other, more important domestic issues,” and more than a third—35 per cent—believe the problem is being exaggerated by pressure groups. Yet almost 90 per cent had made some contribution towards combating the problem, such as having their home insulated.

There is no reason to suppose that a similar poll conducted here in New Zealand would show anything different. Some of the poll’s highlights:

  • The UK public is clearly concerned about the environment—94% of people say that protecting the environment is important for the UK
  • However, the public strongly feels that Government action in tackling threats to the environment is ineffective. Just 8% rate the effectiveness of national governments on this issue and only 11% think that international treaties on the environment, such as Kyoto, are effective
  • People do not trust the Government’s stance on the environment (credibility rating of -15%) and trust scientists more than any other source for information about the state of the environment (credibility rating of +72%)
  • As a result, it is widely felt that the Government’s priorities should be elsewhere, namely on providing good public services (33% say this should be the biggest priority for Government), closely followed by protection from criminals and terrorists (31%)
  • Just 10% of respondents believe that protecting the environment should be Government’s main focus
  • The study overwhelmingly shows that people feel actions by businesses are the most effective (40%) way of combating threats to the environment
  • 73% believe UK businesses should be forced to tackle climate change, although roughly the same amount (62%) believe that environmental protection shouldn’t come at the expense of the UK economy
  • Clearly the public feels there must be a way of empowering businesses to tackle issues such as climate change, without damaging the wider economy

Other arising issues:

  • People are unwilling to ‘put their money where their mouths are’ when it comes to climate change
  • While 94% of people say that protecting the environment is important for the UK, the public would sooner donate money to other global causes such as international medical charities and disaster and debt relief funds, rather than to environmental pressure groups
  • Equally, when people were asked to prioritise how the Government should spend £100bn on global causes, the environment was the second least popular option
  • Providing medicine for the world’s poor, reducing trade barriers against developing countries and cancelling third world debt were considered to be more important financial priorities for world governments than the environment

The poll can be viewed and downloaded online at the Stockholm Network’s site, http://www.stockholm-network.org/pubs.cfm.

Peter Cresswell
Phone: (09) 631 0034, (021) 1209443
Email: [email protected]

Libertarianz: More Freedom – Less Government