Insights / PAT posts improved Net Zero awareness

PAT posts improved Net Zero awareness but less concern about climate change

Last week, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) published its Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) for Spring 2024.

Promisingly, there was an improvement in awareness about the concept of Net Zero, with over half (53%) of respondents saying they know a lot, or a fair amount, about it. The proportion of people who reported never hearing about Net Zero was down to 9% - its joint lowest level since Autumn 2021. The over 65s were more likely to say they knew a lot, or a fair amount, with those under 45 knowing the least.

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While the overall improvement in awareness is welcome, it’s also concerning that one in 10 people in the UK have never heard of Net Zero. Perhaps even more worryingly, 18% of people said they’re not very, or not at all, concerned about climate change.

The level of concern has fallen over time. In Autumn 2021, 85% of respondents said they were very, or fairly, concerned about climate change. In Spring 2024, this had fallen to 80%, with the proportion of those feeling very concerned falling seven percentage points.

Concern about climate change – Autumn 2021 to Spring 2024

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Why is this concern falling despite a full year of record high monthly temperatures, heatwaves, irregular rainfall patterns, and extreme storms seen around the globe? Perhaps it’s due to the relatively slow and enduring impact of climate change versus more pressing issues such as over-stretched household budgets or the impact of stretched public spending on public services. Or perhaps an element of “disaster fatigue” has set in, with people increasingly fed up with hearing about extreme events and climate change warnings?

On the other hand, DESNZ did spot a promising trend in the positive correlation between knowledge of Net Zero and concern about the impacts of climate change. Those of us who work in the energy sector are more likely to be familiar with these topics, making it a little surprising to us that 9% of people have never heard of Net Zero.

The latest PAT suggests there’s still a great deal of educational work needed to improve awareness of, and support concern about, the very real threat of climate change.

The PAT is a nationally representative public survey tracking awareness among adults (16+) in the UK.

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