2021 seen as a crucial year for climate action as optimism swells

People across the UK are looking to 2021 as a vital year for tackling the climate emergency and are planning a renewed surge of environmental action.

New research from Triodos Bank can reveal that the majority of people in the UK (60%) believe that 2021 will be a pivotal year for building a greener future, especially as President-elect Joe Biden promises a renewed focus on leading the global response to the climate emergency – as the world builds back from Covid-19 and looks ahead to the postponed United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

2021 to be crucial year for climate action

The pandemic and other world events of 2020 have brought environmental issues into sharp focus for many, with 45% saying they are now more mindful of the environment due to having spent more time outdoors this year as part of lockdown measures. Meanwhile, four in 10 (40%) say it was the Australian bushfires that were a key moment in making them more interested in the planet.

Brits suggest there needs to be urgent action on the environment, as two thirds (67%) think the planet is in a worse shape than it has ever been, and that the world needs to act within the next 12 months if it is going to tackle the climate emergency.

Renewed hope sparking climate action

Following the election pledge of Joe Biden to tackle the climate emergency, six in 10 UK adults (60%) think that the USA re-entering the Paris Agreement on climate change will be good for the planet. Half (49%) of people in the UK believe Biden’s win has made them more hopeful about the future of the planet.

The Opinium survey finds that Brits will change their habits to be greener in 2021 – but are still missing some of the most impactful switches they can make.

Four in 10 (38%) UK adults – equating to just under 20 million people* – say that feeling more optimistic about the future of the planet is inspiring them to do their bit to help the environment, while 42% want to use 2021 as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf when it comes to their environmental impact.

This comes as half of UK adults (50%) say they know they should be doing more to be environmentally friendly, while over a third (36%) admit to feeling guilty about their carbon footprint.

Mike Childs, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth said:“The rising environmental optimism and enthusiasm for greener lifestyles is highly encouraging. People have a powerful role to play in protecting our planet, whether it’s through individual or community action, or by urging our councils or the government to put green issues at the heart of their decision-making. 

“As governments around the world look to confront the twin threats of an escalating climate crisis and pandemic-ravaged economies, the need to rapidly invest in a zero-carbon future, and the new green jobs this will bring, has never been more important.  

“And with the crucial UN climate summit taking place in Glasgow later this year, Boris Johnson’s government has a golden opportunity to put green issues at the heart of policy-making and show real leadership on this issue.” 

Top green switches Brits intend to make in 2021:

  1. Recycling more (44%)
  2. Using fewer single-use plastics (43%)
  3. Trying to save energy around the house (33%)
  4. Shopping locally (32%)
  5. Buying fewer fast fashion items (22%)

However, few recognise the impact that switching their finances to greener suppliers can have. Just 5% of people plan to switch their current account to an ethical or sustainable bank, while 5% plan to switch their investments and 5% their pension.

Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK said: “It’s brilliant to witness a swell of environmental optimism in the UK, and that millions of people are looking at how they can do their bit to join the global community in taking climate action and protect the environment.

“Anyone looking to live a greener lifestyle should consider that switching banks is one of the most impactful changes you can make. You can choose to prevent your money from financing fossil fuels, plastic packaging or arms, and support sustainable initiatives instead – thereby making a real difference in the world.”

Brits call on Government to do more

There is a real desire to ‘build back better’ after the pandemic, as the majority (60%) of UK adults report that when it comes to how we care for the environment, they don’t want society to return to normal in 2021.

However, just one in five (20%) think Boris Johnson’s ’10 Point Green Plan’ will have a positive impact on the environment – leading many to call for stronger measures on the climate emergency.

Four in 10 Brits (39%) think the Government needs to take further action on climate change in 2021, while a third (33%) would like to see the Government spend more money on initiatives that will help the environment.

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