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UK DfT Report Finds That While a Majority of the Public Still Thinks Individuals Should Limit Car Use to Benefit Environment, Support for Measures Drops

Attitudes towards measures to reduce car emissions. Source: DfT. Click to enlarge.

A new UK Department for Transport (DfT) report on public attitudes to climate change in the context of transport finds that a majority of respondents from amongst the general public understand that transport emissions contribute to climate change and that a majority still believe that individuals should try to limit their car use to benefit the environment. However, the percentage agreeing with that has declined “significantly” from last year.

The report for the Department for Transport is based on a survey module included in the Office for National Statistics’ Opinions (Omnibus) survey which has been carried out each August since 2006. It found that 65% of respondents spontaneously selected emissions from road transport as a cause of climate change. Most respondents said they think cars or aeroplanes are the transport modes mainly responsible for climate changing emissions.

The report found that in 2009, 58% of adults believe that “Individuals should try to limit their car use for the sake of the environment”. In 2008, 64% agreed with that; in 2007, 63%; and in 2006, 62% agreed.

Support for policies on soft measures to encourage alternative modes, such as improved public transport, was higher than measures that would increase the cost of car travel. However, even the percentage agreeing that “Government should do more to persuade people to buy more fuel efficient cars” declined to 81% in 2009 from 87% in 2006.

Increasing tax on gasoline was supported by 10% of respondents in 2009, lower than in 2006 (14%). Higher taxes on less environmentally friendly cars was the most popular pricing measure, although the level of support has decreased from 41% in 2006 to 37% in 2009.

Furthermore, the percentage agreeing that “People should be allowed to use their cars as much as they like even if it causes environmental damage” rose from 26% in 2006 to 37% in 2009. Almost exactly the same proportion disagreed with this.

In 2009, 45% of adults believed “Air travel should be limited for the sake of the environment” while around a fifth (21%) supported increasing the cost of air travel to help reduce transport emissions.

Other findings were:

  • In 2009, 76% of adults said that they were very or fairly concerned about climate change, with about a quarter being very concerned.

  • The proportion of adults considering climate change one of the top three most important issues facing Britain was about a quarter (24%) in 2009.

  • In 2009, around a quarter (24%) thought there was no point in changing their behaviour because the consequences of climate change are too uncertain, while a similar proportion (22%) believed the consequences to be too far in the future to worry about.

  • In each year about 10% of adults said that they knew a lot about climate change; in 2009 a further 43% said they knew a fair amount. Just over one in ten said that they knew hardly anything or nothing.

  • In 2009, 11% of adults said they would be prepared to pay a lot more for a less polluting car, with a further 57% saying they would be prepared to pay a little more. A quarter said they would not be prepared to pay more, while 7% said they would not buy a new car. The results were similar in 2008, however a higher proportion said they would be prepared to pay a lot more in 2006 (16%).

  • The vast majority of adults believed that the world and UK climate was being affected. Just over one in ten adults indicated that they were not convinced or were unsure whether the UK climate was being affected.

  • Although the majority (about 60%) of adults felt that climate change would have little or no effect on them personally, in 2009 85% thought the affect on future generations would be a great deal or quite a lot.

  • The majority of respondents believed that transport emissions contribute to climate change, with 65% spontaneously selecting emissions from road transport as a cause of climate change, although this proportion has fallen significantly since 2006.

  • When asked which modes of transport contribute most the public were most likely to choose cars or airplanes.

  • Among airplane users who were not intending to reduce their number of flights, the most common reason for not reducing usage was the desire to go on holiday abroad (31%).

  • The public were most likely to trust independent scientists to provide correct information about climate change, although this has fallen significantly since 2006. Correspondingly, the proportion not trusting any source has increased significantly over time, from 6% in 2006 to 12% in 2009.




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