Looking to take a pulse of the country’s feelings at this time, Triodos Bank polled 2,000 people from across the country to discover their thoughts on environmental activism. We asked them about the environmental issues that mattered in 2020, their attitude to events set for 2021 and the individual actions that they would be taking.
Here’s a quick overview of what we learned:
2021 is viewed as a crucial year for climate action
The majority of people in the UK (60%) believe that 2021 will be a pivotal year for building a greener future, especially as the world builds back from Covid-19 and looks ahead to the postponed United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Brits suggest there needs to be urgent action on the environment, as two thirds (67%) think the planet is in a worse shape than it has ever been, and that the world needs to act within the next 12 months if it is going to tackle the climate emergency.
Campaigning organisation Friends of the Earth agrees with this sense of urgency. Its head of policy Mike Childs comments: “With the crucial UN climate summit taking place in Glasgow later this year, Boris Johnson’s government has a golden opportunity to put green issues at the heart of policy-making and show real leadership on this issue.”
The incoming US President is helping foster a renewed sense of optimism
Six in 10 UK adults say President-elect Biden’s promise to focus on tackling the climate emergency will be good for the environment, while half (49%) say Biden’s win has made them more hopeful about the future of the planet.
Similarly, six in 10 UK adults (60%) think that the USA re-entering the Paris Agreement on climate change will be good for the planet.
“The rising environmental optimism and enthusiasm for greener lifestyles is highly encouraging,” adds Mike. “People have a powerful role to play in protecting our planet, whether it’s through individual or community action, or by urging our councils or the government to put green issues at the heart of their decision-making.”
2020 made people more conscious of the planet’s fragility
The pandemic and other world events of 2020 have brought environmental issues into sharp focus for many, with 45% saying they are now more mindful of the environment due to having spent more time outdoors this year as part of lockdown measures. Meanwhile, four in 10 (40%) say it was the Australian bushfires in early 2020 that were a key moment in making them more interested in the planet.
People plan to do their bit to live a greener lifestyle in 2021
Four in 10 (38%) UK adults – equating to just under 20 million people – say feeling more optimistic about the future of the planet is inspiring them to do their bit to help the environment, while 42% want to use 2021 as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf when it comes to their environmental impact.
This comes as half of UK adults (50%) say they know they should be doing more to be environmentally friendly, while over a third (36%) admit to feeling guilty about their carbon footprint.
However, few recognise the impact that switching their finances to greener suppliers can have. Just 5% of people plan to switch their current account to an ethical or sustainable bank, while 5% plan to switch their investments and 5% their pension.
“Anyone looking to live a greener lifestyle should consider that switching banks is one of the most impactful changes you can make," says Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK. "You can choose to prevent your money from financing fossil fuels, plastic packaging or arms, and support sustainable initiatives instead – thereby making a real difference in the world.”
The UK is calling on its own Government to take further action on climate change
Four in 10 Brits (39%) think the Government needs to take further action on climate change in 2021, while a third (33%) would like to see the Government spend more money on initiatives that will help the environment.
Just one in five (20%) think the Prime Minister’s '10 Point Green Plan' will have a positive impact on the environment – leading many to call for stronger measures on the climate emergency.
How can I turn over a new leaf in 2020?
We’ve worked with our longstanding partner Friends of the Earth to put together a list of the lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on caring for the environment – all of which you can make without having to leave the house.