Public ‘want a referendum on Boris Johnson’s net zero plans’ by next general election

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The news might come as a shock to Boris Johnson, who is due to convince global leaders to take tougher action on climate change at Cop26 - Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street
The news might come as a shock to Boris Johnson, who is due to convince global leaders to take tougher action on climate change at Cop26 - Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street

The British public are in favour of a referendum on the Government’s net zero proposals, a new poll has shown.

Forty two per cent of adults said they supported a vote on the plan, whilst 30 per cent opposed it, and 28 per cent did not declare a preference, according to a YouGov survey conducted this month.

When the “don’t knows” were excluded from the results, a majority of 58 per cent wanted a ballot on the issue.

The survey showed that of those who expressed a preference, more than 50 per cent of each category polled supported a referendum on net zero. This included 18- to 24-year-olds, middle class voters, Londoners, Remainers, both men and women, and Liberal Democrat backers.

The findings will come as a blow to Boris Johnson just days before the start of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow on Sunday.

While he is preparing to convince global leaders to take tougher action, the survey suggests more work is needed at home to convince voters that reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 is necessary.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister unveiled his eco blueprint for achieving the target, which involves banning new gas boilers from 2035, installing electric car charging points across the country, and building new nuclear power plants.

Ministers have so far refused to put a precise cost on the plan, but analysts estimate that it could total more than £1 trillion over the next three decades.

The Treasury last week warned that additional public investment in decarbonisation may need to be funded from tax rises or spending redirected from other government priorities.

The polling was commissioned by Car26.org, a new campaign group calling for a referendum on net zero proposals and a pause in eco regulations until such a ballot is held.

All carbon-related taxes and costs should be optional up to the point public support for net zero is confirmed by a referendum, the campaign argued. It is calling for a ballot in 2024 or 2029, to take place in conjunction with the next general election.

‘Arrogant elite’ charging ahead in net zero debate

Lois Perry, director of Car26.org, said on Tuesday: “We must not let political consensus drive us into carbon poverty. Let the people take control of the wheel.”

She accused an “arrogant, remote elite” of “charging ahead in pursuit of costly and futile carbon policy” without due consideration for the families that will have to pay the price.

Some Tory MPs have also expressed scepticism about the Government's strategy, with particular concerns arising about the plan to phase out gas boilers in favour of heat pumps and other green alternatives.

Steve Baker, a founder of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group which now boasts about 40 Conservative MPs, has previously warned the idea risks making the public both “poorer and colder”, referring to the high cost of heat pumps and question marks over the level of heat they transmit in some settings.

The respondents were asked the question: “To what extent do you support or oppose holding a national referendum to decide whether or not the UK pursues a Net Zero Carbon policy?”

A sample of 1,648 adults were included in the poll, which was conducted between October 22 and 24.

The strongest support for a referendum was shown to be among Brexit voters, women, blue collar workers and Northerners. More than 62 per cent of each of these groups backed a ballot when “don’t knows” were excluded.

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