5 minute read 8 Oct 2021
Man standing in mountains

What consumers expect in the battle against climate change

By Stephen Prendiville

EY Ireland Head of Sustainability

Senior Infrastructure and Sustainability Leader dedicated to disruption, resilience and network system thinking for public and private sector clients alike.

5 minute read 8 Oct 2021

Consumers are prepared to play their part in the battle against climate change, but they expect businesses and Government to play their part, too.

In brief
  • Almost 80% of adults claim that recent news coverage has altered their perception on climate change
  • 36% feel more motivated to change their behaviours than they were before recent media reports

Sustainability and climate action are fast-evolving topics during 2021. We commissioned consumer research in August following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) code red for humanity warning and the subsequent Met Éireann / Marine Institute / EPA report on Ireland’s climate action performance, to gauge the reaction of consumer sentiment to this news.

The results of that research (covering a representative sample of the population at large) suggest that we may be close to a tipping point in public attitudes to climate change. Almost 80% of adults claim that the recent news has altered their perception on climate change. The message has gotten through.

Changing perceptions

80%

of adults claim that the recent news has altered their perception on climate change.

However, fewer than four in 10 (36%) feel more motivated to change their behaviours than they were before those media reports, with the same proportion claiming that they are now more worried than they were. So while the perceptions of the majority have altered, there is still a large gap to bridge in moving people from simply being concerned to becoming mobilised to take action.

The findings align with the results of our inaugural State of Sustainability 2021 Report which found that the majority of Irish indigenous businesses display a low degree of readiness for the sustainability challenges ahead.

In short, it appears both citizens and businesses acknowledge they need to play their part, but they’re relying on the Government and industry leaders to play their part, too.

More than half of adults (53%) believe that the Government should offer more incentives for the retrofitting of residential homes to make them more energy efficient. The same proportion favours greater investment in greener public transport. Almost half (47%) believe more should be done to incentivise electric vehicle (EV) use. A similar number (45%) say the Government should invest in projects to reduce methane and carbon emissions from farms and landfill facilities.

There was also a degree of self interest in evidence. Those aged 65 and over are more likely to support better incentives for the retrofitting of homes. This probably reflects the fact that this age cohort spends a higher proportion of income on fuel bills than younger people.

Younger people tend to be more strident when it comes to the nature of the action to be taken with those aged 18-24 more likely to support stronger penalties for major carbon-emitting industries and the investment in projects to reduce farm and landfill emissions from farms and landfill. That aligns to what has to date been mainly anecdotal evidence to suggest that young people are more engaged with climate change and want to see more vigorous action taken to tackle it.

Support for more investment in greener public transport and more incentives for EVs was more or less evenly spread across all age groups suggesting that the message in relation to transport emissions has hit home.

Overall, the results are highly encouraging. Consumers are broadly supportive of government action to address climate change. The message is clear, there is little or no political risk involved in climate action, the risk, both political and environmentally, lies in inaction.

Since the launch of the study we have seen the refresh of the NDP, with a firm focus on Ireland’s future sustainability, and we anticipate even greater scales of ambition and transformation to be set out as part of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2021, the important carbon budgets, and the forthcoming Conference of the Parties 26 meeting in Glasgow.

Summary

News coverage highlighting the realities of the climate situation have intensified, and the message is hitting home with consumers.

About this article

By Stephen Prendiville

EY Ireland Head of Sustainability

Senior Infrastructure and Sustainability Leader dedicated to disruption, resilience and network system thinking for public and private sector clients alike.