A survey conducted by Action Net Zero, the community interest company, with a mission to help communities across the South West embrace a greener future, has revealed growing participation in green initiatives – and still a long way to go.

The survey shows 20 per cent of respondents believing the environment is the single most important global issue to tackle. 

Nearly 2,000 people completed the survey in 2021, more than double the number who participated the previous year. Insights will provide Action Net Zero with a better understanding of how it can help to drive change; revealing which areas individuals are least likely to act upon, and where they aspire to do more.

While people appear more engaged when it comes to tackling climate change and improving sustainability, the survey reveals the complex emotions that people are currently feeling about such issues.

Feelings have shifted from hope and determination towards sadness, anxiety and anger. For example: 

  • 29 per cent said they were sad, upset – compared to 17 per cent in 2020
  • 27 per cent said they were anxious, scared, worried – compared to 15 per cent in 2020
  • 23 per cent said they were angry, frustrated – compared to 12 per cent in 2020
  • 12 per cent said they were resigned – compared to 11 per cent in 2020 

Pam Barbato of Action Net Zero CIC said: “The survey shows just how important issues like climate change and sustainability are to the people of the South West. The shift of emotions over the last year from hope and determination to feelings of anger, sadness and anxiety signals an opportunity to drive more urgent action from the Government and large organisations, which really need to take the lead yet also to empower communities, to help people turn climate anxiety into climate action.”

Metro Mayor for the West of England Combined Authority Dan Norris said: “I’m saddened yet not surprised by the survey findings. People ‘get’ the climate change emergency which is why I’ve made tackling it one of my priorities for the region. Here at the Combined Authority we are doing what we can with a £540 million Sustainable Transport fund which aims to get more people out of cars and onto buses and trains and create more cycle paths and safe spaces to walk. We’re also aiming to fully retrofit poorly insulated homes and get our talented workforce into green jobs.”

Almost half of the survey’s respondents believe climate change and the future of the planet is a big concern for them, while 70 per cent feel environmental issues are of equal importance to social issues.

The survey also assessed the sustainability action already being taken by the respondents. Most strongly intend to make positive changes to help protect the planet: 

  • 66 per cent strongly intend to cut their waste
  • 58 per cent intend to choose more durable and reusable products
  • 57 per cent to choose more circular and recycled products
  • 50 per cent to be more nature friendly
  • 49 per cent to be energy smart.

Kate Wilson, president of Edwards’ Semiconductor Division, an Action Net Zero partner said: “This survey shows the importance of having a clear strategy to tackle climate change. Decarbonising the grid is absolutely critical to this and the Government HAS to lead the way on that. 

“From our perspective as a business, we’re working to reduce the carbon footprint of the semiconductor industry, through the development of technologies and products that prevent harmful by-products from entering the atmosphere. We are also embracing renewable energy, water re-use and other activities at our factories in Clevedon and around the world.”

Over the next 15 years, approximately 60 per cent of carbon reduction will need to come from individuals and SMEs; however, only 12 per cent of respondents believe that individuals are responsible for making positive change through individual choices. Around 15 per cent do believe that individual choice would have the most impact.

Maria Connolly, head of clean energy and real estate at UK law firm TLT, an Action Net Zero brand partner, said: “Nobody – and no business – is untouched by the climate crisis; we all have a role to play in achieving net zero by 2025. As well as formalising our own net zero journey, we’re working with clients and organisations like Action Net Zero to share our experiences and help people and businesses to reduce their environmental impact, from decarbonising transport to using renewable energy and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.”

More than half of the survey’s respondents believe it is the responsibility of national governments to lead on sustainability and environmental issues, with 16 per cent placing responsibility on large companies, and 28 per cent and 25 per cent respectively believing that changes at these levels would have the most positive impact.

Action Net Zero is a community interest company which brings together businesses and residents to help them live greener lives. It provides information on the green economy, green choices that people can make in their lives and looks to help build a net zero future for all. It started out in Bristol however is now expanding its work across the South West.