Despite climate change concerns growing, the British population is focusing on the "wrong lifestyle changes" when it comes to tackling environmental issues
A daily bombardment of climate change warnings has led to a sharp increase in eco-anxiety, but muddled messages around air pollution, plastic waste and fossil fuels have left many confused when it comes to taking positive steps to help preserve the planet.
It’s a subject that UK residents care about, with 61% of people increasingly concerned about climate change and 65% are prepared to take action to address it, according to a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by green energy provider Good Energy
Tellingly, 42% were not clear on what action they could take to make a difference, and just under a quarter thought it was currently too difficult to be environmentally friendly.
The largest percentage of those polled (18%), said avoiding the use of plastic was the single change that would have the biggest impact on reducing their carbon footprint.
Lifestyle changes, such as flying less, eating less meat and switching to clean energy sources, were only considered as high-priority by between 4% to 5% of those surveyed.
Environmental scientist Dr Alexandra Jellicoe said: “People have been bombarded with messages about plastic pollution following the success of shows such as Blue Planet, so it’s no wonder many think reducing plastic is the top thing they can do to combat the climate crisis.
“Although essential for the health of our oceans, switching to reusable bags and cups has a minimal impact on an individual’s carbon footprint.
“One of the biggest things individuals can do is to freeze out fossil fuels by reducing air travel and switching to a green energy supplier.”
Friends of the Earth calls for more consumers to switch to green energy
Renewable energy sources provided more electricity to UK customers than fossil fuels in the third quarter of 2019, as their share of the energy mix rose to 40%.
This marks the first time that clean energy provision outstripped fossil fuels in the UK mix.
Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth believes that consumers can do more to support this transition — particularly by switching to renewable energy suppliers.
The charitable trust claims the average UK household could cut more than 4 tonnes of CO2 emissions from their carbon footprint every year if they switched to a renewable energy tariff — the equivalent impact of four transatlantic flights from London to New York.
Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: “To combat the climate crisis, we urgently need to transition away from fossil fuels, which generate vast quantities of climate-wrecking pollution.
“Government policy will be key to accelerating that transition at scale, but each of us can play our part by making simple changes to our lifestyle.
“If each household in the UK were to switch to renewable energy today, we could save millions of tonnes of carbon every year.”
Research revealed only half of the consumers surveyed for the Good Energy report were aware that switching to renewables was one of the more significant changes they could make to protect the environment — despite 71% being willing to support UK green energy producers.
Energy provider comparison website The Switch lists 12 green energy firms in the UK, which supply electricity from renewable sources.
The so-called Big Six energy providers, British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, npower, Scottish Power and SSE, continue to dominate the market, with a combined 72% market share.
However, many now also offer green tariffs and the average UK energy supplier sources a third of its electricity from renewable sources.