Majority of UK public not aware UN climate talks are even taking place

More than two thirds (67%) of the UK public are unaware that the UN is holding climate change talks this week, according to a new survey.

The survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found the majority of the British public are unaware that UN climate change talks are taking place in Paris until 11 December.

And once all survey participants were made aware of the UN summit, there was also pessimism about the potential for a climate deal to be reached ― with just 19% saying they were confident a deal will be agreed, compared with 64% who said they were not confident it could be reached.

According to the poll, the two biggest barriers to reaching a solution to climate change are the increased industrialisation of poorer countries (20%) and lack of political will (19%). 

The survey found that 47% of the public think developed countries, such as the UK, should face more challenging targets to cut emissions than poorer countries.

And more than a third (36%) said the UK should not fund the construction of low carbon infrastructure in poorer nations compared with 30% who said we should.

“These results from a survey just ahead of the Paris talks are troubling and the low levels of awareness illustrate how disengaged the public is with political attempts to combat climate change,” said Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Dr Jenifer Baxter.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind and is already causing droughts, flooding, political tensions and deaths around the world. These changes to the global environment could lead to mass migration leaving developed nations living in temperate zones, like the UK, to find ways to manage the health, social and basic needs of an ever increasing population.

“Leaders must show ambition to provide the political framework to make tackling climate change a priority. It is only with this clear vision that engineers and scientists can truly push through with the research, development and deployment of technologies that can mitigate climate change and allow us to adapt to a world that is already facing huge changes,” added Dr Baxter.

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues