At a time of intense focus on environmental issues amid growing calls to change the way we live, over 20 million households (74%) across the UK are concerned about the impact of climate change, with a quarter (25%) more conscious about its effects than ever before, according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.
However, of those who are anxious about the future of our planet, only a third (31%) would be happy to foot the bill for the infrastructure the UK needs to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – contributing an average of just under £38 a month each, or £454 annually. The preferred methods of payment include an additional fee on their monthly energy bill (12%) and additional monthly taxes (10%).
On the other hand, over half (53%) are unwilling to contribute directly, and believe responsibility for paying for the technology to reduce emissions should sit with energy companies (31%) or the Government (22%).
Amongst 18-34 year olds, who are most likely to suffer from the consequences of climate change later down the line, the average annual sum rises to £737. It is perhaps no surprise that those in the London region, which experiences some of the worst air pollution in the country, are prepared to pay over £1,000 per year, while those in the South East would only pay £204.
However, one thing consumers do seem prepared to shell out for is electric vehicles, which are experiencing a surge in popularity. Nearly half (44%) of those who don’t have an electric car say they are considering buying one in the next five years, coming on top of a 158% increase in battery electric vehicle sales when compared to July 2018.
But many people are still unsure about swapping the internal combustion engine for a battery on wheels. The biggest barriers include the cost of buying the vehicle (35%), concerns over battery life (33%) and a lack of confidence in the charging infrastructure around the country (31%) and at home (31%). This is despite the Government’s recent pledge to contribute an extra £2.5 million for charging points on residential streets, suggesting that greater consumer awareness is needed before we’re all ready to turn our backs on petrol and diesel forever.
Elsewhere though, people are already taking small steps to be more ‘green-minded’ in their day to day lives: the majority of consumers say they have embraced environmentally friendly habits such as recycling (68%) and bringing a reusable bag when they shop (64%). 38% say they have ditched the use of plastic straws, a third (33%) are trying different modes of transport to avoid driving and over one in ten (12%) are attempting to reduce their air miles.
Nearly four in five (85%) have also made a conscious effort to use less energy around the home, unplugging devices and turning off lights when not in use (55%), using LED or energy efficient light bulbs (52%) and washing clothes at a lower temperature (47%). Costlier options are, perhaps unsurprisingly, less popular however. While a reasonable one in five (21%) have insulated their homes, fewer than one in ten (6%) say they have invested in solar panels to generate their own renewable electricity.
People are more enthusiastic if they also feel there’s a financial benefit to themselves. Over half (53%) have switched or are considering switching to a green energy supplier, citing a desire to reduce their impact on the environment (42%) and on future generations (35%). People are also incentivised by the fact that renewable energy tariffs are now as cheap as other plans (31%) and the fact that there are more deals to choose from (29%).
Indeed, three of the cheapest 10 tariffs currently available are eco-friendly, and cost as much as £333 less than the price cap on standard variable tariffs. However, one in six (16%) who haven’t switched are still deterred from going green due to the belief that renewable energy is too expensive.
Rik Smith, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “With the intense media interest in climate change, people across Britain are starting to look at the changes they can make to their own lives. But there is more hesitation when it comes to paying for the technology which is going to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.
“The big exception to this rule seems to be electric vehicles, where nearly half the households in the country are thinking about buying one. Yet consumers still need reassurance that there are enough public charging points to get them from A to B without being stranded before they go full throttle for battery powered cars.
“One area which is less complicated, however, is making simple changes such as using less energy at home and opting for sustainable electricity. Green tariffs are among the cheapest on the market and could save people over £300 a year on their bill, as well as supporting renewable energy.”
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