British consumers are second only to the Japanese in our aversion to stripping out old carbon-emitting boilers and heating systems.

Only 28% of us are prepared to contemplate changing our outdated burners to fight the climate catastrophe with emissions cuts.  That places the UK as second lowest out of 31 countries surveyed by attitude probers Ipsos.

More broadly, 74% of this country’s folks recognise a personal responsibility to act against climate change. Around a third of us are prepared to consume fewer dairy products (34%) and less meat (37%), again low by international standards. Too much packaging provokes us, with 53% saying we avoid over-wrapped products.

The figures come from Ipsos’ worldwide survey of over 23,000 consumers’ actions and attitudes to sustainability, released to mark today’s Earth Day 2022.

Avoiding buying new goods (49%), saving water at home (48%) and saving energy (47%) are Brits’ most favoured actions in sustainable living.

Less than half (45%) of us – low, by international standards – say we think of walking, cycling or using public transport, though, in preference to driving our adored cars and motorbikes.

A 2020 study led by Leeds University researcher Dr Diana Ivanova, published in ‘Environmental Research’ found that living car-free is the number one way to reduce carbon emissions, ahead of switching to electric vehicles, and taking a single flight less each year.

But only 36% of UK consumers told the survey they were likely to avoid flying in the coming year, or to replace even some flights with train or coach travel.

Results of the massive comparative survey point to a mis-match between Brits’ desires and how we put them into effect, analysts contend.  Responses were gathered worldwide in three weeks to mid-March.

‘Tougher life choices’

Britons are not alone in our confusion. Around the world, few consumers have a clear understanding of the actions with the biggest, proven impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Ipsos conclude, comparing their poll’s findings with Ivanova’s research.

Consumers worldwide are most likely to say recycling waste is the best way to reduce emissions (49%).  But Dr. Ivanova’s study ranked this step a lowly number 60 in effectiveness, among individual actions yielding good climate effects.

Among the top five pro-climate actions enacted by the world’s publics, only two are in the true top 10 of best actions yielding most protection for the environment:

  • Switching to renewable electricity, favoured by 30% of consumers, ranks a heady Number 4 on Ivanova’s recommended list.
  • Choosing public transport, favoured by 22% of consumers, ranks at no. 5

Actions we believe make us green, in practice have less effect than we imagine, the survey finds;

  • Shunning packaging, practised by 28% of consumers, ranks only 38 on the effectiveness ‘hit list’
  • Shopping less, or shopping for more durable belongings, favoured by 22%, ranks only at no 46

‘Living car-free’, ranking no.1 as the most impactful action highlighted in Ivanova’s paper, was only selected by 15% of the world’s people.

Dr. Pippa Bailey, Ipsos’ head of UK climate change & sustainability, inferred:  “There is still a sizeable gap between what people believe to be true and what is reality in terms of the actions that we as citizens can make to reduce our own carbon footprint.

“Tougher life choices, such as people moving away from personal transportation to the use of public transport, walking or cycling, are going to be more challenging, particularly in developed economies.

“However, there is clear awareness of the need by global citizens to transition to renewables and so there is likely to be limited resistance to changes in this area”.


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